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Precepts of Lord Burghley, 
Sir Walter Raleigh, 
and Francis Osborne 




The Folger Shakespeare Library 


"Guides to conduct are common 
to all ages^ for writers never cease 
to believe that the distillation of 
their wisdom will in some fashion 
improve the behavior of youth and 
provide useful Instruction to their 
elders. The sixteenth century was 
a particularly didactic age and had 
more than Its share of self-ap- 
pointed instructors with faith In 
their missions,' 9 So writes Louis B. 
Wright In his Introduction to Ad- 
vice to a Son. 

This volume makes available 
three of the most famous sets of 
precepts. The manuals attributed 
to Lord Burghley and Sir Walter 
Raleigh and a treatise compiled by 
Francis Osborne are indicative of 
both the aspirations and the morals 
of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries, and they provide an in- 
dex to the social attitudes of the 

Immensely popular and Influ 
ential, they were often reprinted^ 
quoted from, ancl plagiarized. Some 
students of Shakespeare profess to 
see a parallel fc :tween Polomus* ad- 
vice to Laer;2s and Birghley's 
practical coun; d to his set Robert, 

The advice; that th ; i : treatises 
offer Is materi illstlc ar.d even cyni- 
cal,, because the witm, tuoving in 
C* political mil* m, wt re realise ; ; 
Uzipting to pro' ude iiistnactioii I : i 
t^ci.*' sofas that i/oulc 


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Advice to a son 

Folger Documents of Tudor and Stuart Civilization 

.APR 1963 .... 



THIS volume is one of a series of publications of Tudor and 
Stuart documents that the Folger Library proposes to bring 
out. These documents will consist of hitherto unprinted manu- 
scripts as well as reprints of rare books in the Folger Library. 
An effort will be made to choose significant items that will 
throw light on the social and intellectual background of the 
period from 1485 to 1715. In response to almost unanimous 
requests of interested historians, the spelling, punctuation, and 
capitalization will be modernized in printed texts. In some 
cases, where the original printing is clear and easily read, texts 
may be photographically reproduced. The Folger Library is 
prepared to supply microfilm of original texts to scholars who 
require a facsimile. 



Precepts of Lord Burghley, 
Sir Walter Raleigh, 
and Francis Osborne 


Louis B. Wright 


The Folger Shakespeare Library 



Ithaca, New York 

Copyright 1962 by the Folger Shakespeare Library 


First published 1962 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 62-9962 



IN PRINTING the texts of the advice that William Cecil Lord 
Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Francis Osborne saw fit to 
compile for their sons, we have sought to present versions 
that are accurate and readable. As with other texts in the 
Folger Documents of Tudor and Stuart Civilization, we have 
tried to keep the documentation to the minimum needed for 
the comprehension of the documents. Readable texts, rather 
than critical editions identifying every allusion and source of 
ideas, are our aim. 

To that end we have modernized spelling, punctuation, and 
capitalization, but we have of course retained all obsolete words 
and we have not meddled with the authors' grammar. It has 
seemed best to retain the exact spelling of all foreign lan- 
guage passages, including Latin quotations, because they il- 
lustrate the authors* understanding and usage. 

For making the transcriptions of these works I am indebted 
to Miss Ellen Eyler of the Folger editorial staff. She has been 
of immense help in the preparation of this edition. I wish also 
to thank officials of the British Museum for making available 
a photographic copy of Burghley's "A Memorial for Thomas 
Cecil." In this text, as in many others, the keen eye of Miss 
Virginia LaMar, chief editorial assistant, has saved us from 
many errors. 

L. B. W. 
Folger Library 
June 24, 1961 



Preface v 

Introduction ix 

"A Memorial for Thomas Cecil" (1561). By William Cecil, 

Lord Burghley 1 

"Certain Precepts for the Well Ordering of a Man's Life" 

(ca. 1584). By William Cecil, Lord Burghley 7 

Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to His Son and to Posterity 

(2nded., 1632) 15 

Advice to a Son (1656). By Francis Osborne 33 


THE evolution of a literary type which culminated in the eight- 
eenth century in Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son is illus- 
trated by three famous sets of precepts reprinted here. 1 The 
literary genre of "Advice to a Son/ 7 and sometimes "Advice to 
a Daughter," enjoyed a considerable popularity in the late 
seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but it had its origin 
in earlier and somewhat different kinds of instruction. Some- 
times the later types of "Advice" were merely generalized essays 
on manners and morals or devices for satirical or facetious com- 
mentary. Earlier "Advices," however, like those attributed to 
Burghley and Raleigh, frequently represented efforts toward 
the indoctrination of definite individuals. Because of the fame 
of the compiler or the quality of the advice, some of these 
precepts found their way into print to serve as guides and 
admonishment to the general public. Thus, they illustrate an 
ideal of manners and behavior and serve as an index to what 

*An unpublished dissertation by Virgil B. Heltzel, "Chesterfield and 
the Tradition of the Gentleman" (University of Chicago, 1925), traces 
this evolution. Through the courtesy of Professor Heltzel, I have had the 
use of a microfilm copy of this dissertation. Useful commentary on the 
instruction literature will also be found in Virgil B. Heltzel, "Richard Earl 
of Carbery's Advice to His Son," The Huntington Library Bulletin, no. 11 
(1937), pp, 59-105. 



fathers of the period might wish to see demonstrated in the 
conduct of their children. 

Guides to conduct are common to all ages, for writers never 
cease to believe that the distillation of their wisdom will in some 
fashion improve the behavior of youth and provide useful in- 
struction to their elders. The sixteenth century was a particularly 
didactic age and had more than its share of self-appointed in- 
structors with faith in their missions, 2 The treatise of instruction 
might take the form of a sermon by some contemporary preacher, 
a translation of some book of wisdom from the ancients, a 
courtesy book taken from the Italians, an original work de- 
signed to guide the education of the prince, or a few pious and 
practical admonitions of a parent to a son or a daughter. 

The most famous and most popular guide to behavior in the 
sixteenth century was Sir Thomas Elyot's Book Named the 
Governor, first published in 1531 with at least eight editions 
by 1580, Elyot's work is a comprehensive discussion of the best 
way to educate a youth who will have responsibilities in the 
state, and it provides much incidental information about the 
state of learning as well as behavior in this period. At the end 
of the century James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, 
published Basilikon Doron, or His Majesty's Instructions to His 
Dearest Son, Henry the Prince (1599), which by 1604 also had 
at least eight editions. Sir Walter Scott declared that Basilikon 
Doron exhibits "that extraordinary mixture of learning and 
pedantry, sense and folly, reason and prejudice, vanity and 
prudence, which most deservedly procured James the character 
of the wisest fool in Christendom/' 3 At any rate, these two works, 
of Elyot and King James, are characteristic of the didactic 
treatises and represent what the sixteenth century believed es- 

3 See especially the chapter, "From The Governour of Sir Thomas Elyot 
to the Basilikon Doron of King James," in John E. Mason, Gentlefolk in 
the Making (Philadelphia, 1935). 

8 Quoted by Mason, ibid., pp. 31-32. 


sential in the education of aristocratic youths. Works designed 
for folk of less exalted station also abounded, and many devo- 
tional books not only pointed the way to heaven but also pro- 
vided both pious and practical instruction for making a success 
of one's present life. 4 

The sixteenth century devoured instruction of all sorts and 
was particularly addicted to sermons and pious exhortations, 
whether by ordained preachers or laymen. An age in which 
more than 43 per cent of the output of the printing press con- 
sisted of pious and religious works saw nothing unusual in a 
man of the world as practical as Burghley prescribing a religious 
regimen for his household that would have done credit to a 
monastery. That is not to say that all members of the household 
adhered to the rules with fidelity, but it is significant that in 
Burghley's household, as in many others, there was an extraor- 
dinary emphasis on religious instruction along with more prag- 
matic training. We must not discount the sincerity of such 
people or regard them as members of a particularly pious branch 
of a Puritan sect. In this period even callous ship captains and 
buccaneers prescribed religious exercises in their voyages and 
carried chaplains to see that crews kept their swearing in 
compass and did not stray too far from the paths of rectitude. 5 
Though they might regard this precaution as a sort of insurance 
against disaster, they had no doubt of its spiritual value. 

In typical manuals of advice religious instruction and religious 
admonitions were mingled with eminently practical and even 
worldly counsel on ways to succeed in a world that was anything 
but ideal. Sophisticates of later ages have laughed at this mix- 
ture in Burghley's Precepts as they have laughed at the material- 

* See pertinent sections in Louis B. Wright, Middle-Class Culture in 
Elizabethan England (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1935; reprinted Ithaca, N.Y., 
1958), pp. 121-296. 

s Louis B, Wright, Religion and Empire: The Alliance between Piety 
and Commerce in English Expansion, 1558-1625 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 
1943), passim. 



istic advice that Polonius gave to Laertes, but they forget that 
both Burghley and Polonius were realists familiar with a strug- 
gle for position and power that was cruel and ruthless. Rarely 
in politics does one encounter nice distinctions of ethics, and the 
courts of the Tudors and the Stuarts were no exceptions. Calcu- 
lated scheming, sharp practice, the heartless elimination of com- 
petition by whatever means seemed safest, and sheer luck helped 
to account for the rise of many a great man to whom the populace 
showed honor. A practical father who wished his own son to 
get ahead in that world would not want him to grow up either 
tender-minded or ignorant of realities. He would also hope that 
the youth might enjoy the favor of the Almighty, for no one 
expected preferment without the intercession of some great per- 
son, and the Elizabethan looked to heaven for the happiest inter- 
cession of all. Prayer was not without purpose here and hereafter. 
Although it is customary to point to the increasing worldliness 
of the seventeenth century and to talk of the cynicism, not to 
say the iniquity, of the later seventeenth century, we must not 
forget that parallel with the growing cynicism, some of which 
may be illustrated in Francis Osborne's Advice to a Son, was a 
deep religious movement that affected many thousands of peo- 
ple. At a time when a small court circle was laughing at Wycher- 
ley's The Country Wife, multitudes were reading the pious works 
of John Bunyan, the tinker of Bedford. Scores of manuals of 
instruction for sons, and sometimes for daughters, appeared 
throughout the century. Some were as unspiritual and materialis- 
tic as Osborne's Advice to a Son or George Savile, the Marquis 
of Halifax', Advice to a Daughter., but many continued the tra- 
dition of religious instruction that had been characteristic of the 
sixteenth century. Although many emphasized the world to come, 
a surprising number included practical guidance here below. 6 

The popularity of the instructions attributed to Burghley and 
Raleigh in the seventeenth century, long after the deaths of the 
presumed authors, may be accounted for in part by the distinc- 

6 Mason, Gentlefolk, pp. 58-87. Cf. especially pp. 76-77 and note 107. 


tion and position of the two men, but obviously both little 
manuals possessed qualities to which the age responded. Both 
mingled virtue and pragmatism in a way that seventeenth- 
century readers could approve. 

Doubts have been expressed about the authenticity of both 
Burghley's and Raleigh's instructions, but recent scholarship 
leans toward acceptance of both as canonical works of the two 

Although Burghley's Precepts, designed for the edification of 
his son Robert, later the Earl of Salisbury, had a long life in 
print, Burghley wrote another and less well-known set of in- 
structions for his son Thomas which was far more rigidly reli- 
gious. These instructions, preserved in a manuscript in the Brit- 
ish Museum, 7 are printed here for comparison with the later 

William Cecil, first Baron Burghley (and referred to here 
throughout as "Burghley"), was for much of Queen Elizabeth's 
reign the single most powerful figure in her government. Born 
in 1520, he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, at the age 
of fifteen. He was adept in the classical languages and main- 
tained his love for Latin and Greek until his dying day. Begin- 
ning government service in the reign of Edward VI, he quickly 
became Principal Secretary. A prudent, cautious man who knew 
how to keep his own counsel, he managed to accommodate him- 
self to Queen Mary's Catholic regime and to serve her in various 
capacities abroad. 8 On Elizabeth's accession he once more be- 
came Principal Secretary, which office he held until 1572, when 
he became Lord Treasurer, the post that he held until his death 
in 1598, Whatever the title of his office, Burghley was Elizabeth's 
most trusted and faithful counselor. 

His first wife was Mary Cheke, who in 1542 bore him a son 

7 Harleian MS 3638. f . 106. 

8 Burghley's career is treated in detail in Conyers Read, Mr. Secretary 
Cecil and Queen Elizabeth (New York, 1955) and Lord Burghley and 
Queen Elizabeth ( New York, 1960 ) . For his attitude at the time of Mary's 
accession, see Mr. Secretary Cecil, pp. 102-116. 



christened Thomas. Although Thomas' uncle was Sir John Cheke, 
a noted classical scholar, the boy showed no disposition to emu- 
late the learning of either his father or his uncle. Indeed, he grew 
up into a sort of Tony Lumpkin and proved a complete dis- 
appointment and a trial to his father. Perhaps it was partially 
Burghley's own fault, for he confessed that he had "never showed 
any fatherly fancy to him but in teaching and correcting." 9 A 
busy, stern man who had little affection for the boy, Burghley 
was to regret bitterly the youth's failure to measure up to his 
expectations, and all he could think of by way of rectifying the 
lad's behavior was to equip him with pious admonitions. In 
1561 Burghley decided to send Thomas to the Continent to pick 
up a little cultivation that might make him more acceptable in 
the circles where he might be expected to move. On May 8, 1561, 
Burghley wrote to Sir Nicholas Throgmorton: 

I have forborne to send my son Thomas Cecil out of the realm for 
that I had no more, and now that God hath given me another I am 
disposed to send him abroad, meaning only to have him absent about 
one year, so as, at his return, if God so grant, to see him married for 
that he shall then be full 20. I mean not to have him scholarly 
learned but civilly trained, and to have either the French or the 
Italian tongue, in which I know he can have no perfection without 
greater time, and yet, so he can entertain one in common speech of 
salutation, it shall suffice. 10 

To accompany Thomas on his travels, Burghley chose a discreet 
man, his secretary, Thomas Windebank, who proved both pa- 
tient and long-suffering. They went to France, where Thomas 
showed a greater inclination to dice and cards than to learning. 
In the spring of 1562 he broke into poor Windebank's strongbox 
and took his money. A bit later he ravished a maid in Paris. All 
of this led Burghley to write Windebank: 

9 Read, Mr. Secretary Cecil, p. 212. 



Windebank, I am here used to pains and troubles, but none creep so 
near my heart as doth this of my lewd son. I am perplexed what to 
think. The shame that I shall receive to have so unruled a son 
grieveth me more than if I had lost him by honest death. Good 
Windebank, consult with my dear friend Sir N. Throgmorton to 
whom I have referred the whole. I could be best content that he 
would commit him secretly to some sharp prison. If that shall not 
seem good yet would I have him sent away to Strasbourg, if it 
should be possible, or to Louvain, for my grief will grow double to 
see him until some kind of amends. If none of these will serve, then 
bring him home and I shall receive that which it pleaseth God to lay 
on my shoulders: that is, in the midst of my business, for comfort, a 
daily torment. 11 

Windebank in the end took Thomas on a trip through the Low 
Countries and at length sent him home in January, 1563, with 
the prediction that Burghley would "see him amended.'' 

For the journey to the Continent, Burghley had prepared "A 
memorial for Thomas Cecil, my son, to peruse and put in ure 
from time to time concerning things given to him in charge by 
me, William Cecil, his father, anno Domini 1561." Thomas was 
instructed to indulge in an incredible amount of prayer and self- 
examination, to carry about with him commentaries on the Bible, 
and to read the Psalter twelve times, the New Testament four 
times, and the Old Testament once during the year. "This is all 
the study I mean you shall bestow in divinity, saving you shall 
do well to be present with attention every sermon that you may 
hear being preached by men of such judgment as accordeth with 
your profession here," Burghley indulgently comments. At the 
end of the day, in addition to more prayers for the forgiveness 
of his sin, Thomas was expected to enter into a journal all matters 
of moment that had occurred. It is easy to understand that dicing 
and women proved more alluring. 

One may well wonder what became of Thomas after the regi- 

., p. 216. 



men that his father tried to prescribe. He came home and mar- 
ried Dorothy Latimer, who produced a large progeny. After her 
death, late in his life Thomas married the widow of Sir Thomas 
Smith. In 1599, a year too late for his father to know about his 
first preferment, he became president of the Council of the North, 
and in 1605 he was created the first Earl of Exeter. He lived on 
until 1622 and died at the age of eighty. In his later years he was 
afflicted with gout and plagued with family quarrels and law- 
suits. In a long and uneventful life he showed no evidence that 
the religious instructions written out by his father did him any 
good, but at least they did him no harm. Thomas was impervious 
to indoctrination. 

If Thomas Cecil proved a disappointment, Burghley's son 
Robert made up for the failings of the first-born. Robert was the 
son of Burghley's second wife, Mildred Cooke, who was one 
of four extraordinary sisters. One married Sir Nicholas Bacon, 
one Sir Thomas Hoby, and another Henry Killigrew. They were 
all learned and determined women. Robert was born on June 1, 
1563, and developed a crooked spine that gave him the appear- 
ance of being slightly hunchbacked. Unable to take part in out- 
door sports, he developed scholarly instincts that he inherited 
from both mother and father. 

The Burghley household was a little academy where, a con- 
temporary wrote, "most of the principal gentlemen of England 
preferred their sons and heirs to his service." 12 If this statement 
seems somewhat exaggerated, it is certain that Burghley took in 
many promising young men and personally supervised their 
training, for this was the method of educating the aristocracy. 
Among those who lived and learned in the Burghley household 
were Philip Sidney, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Oxford, and 
the Earl of Southampton. Oxford later married Burghley's 
daughter Anne, a match that proved unfortunate for both 
daughter and father, for Oxford turned out to be a liar, bias- 

13 Read, Lord Burghley, p. 124. 



phemer, rascal, and consummate cad, not precisely the person 
to have written Shakespeare's plays, as some strange cultists 
would have us believe. The regimen prescribed by Burghley 
for the young men was strict, as one might expect, and included 
not only French, Latin, cosmography, writing, drawing, "exer- 
cises with the pen," and dancing, but the reading of the Epistles 
and Gospel before dinner in English and after dinner in Greek. 
To supervise Oxford's instruction, he had a tutor, Dr. Laurence 
Nowell, dean of Lichfield Cathedral. Perhaps the very strictness 
and piety that had made so little impression earlier on his son 
Thomas also had an unfavorable influence on Oxford. 

But young Robert Cecil was an apt pupil and learned lan- 
guages, good doctrine, prudence, and exemplary behavior in a 
fashion to delight the heart of his father. Burghley, like many 
another Elizabethan gentleman, was eager to establish a dynasty, 
and the purpose of his instruction was to ensure an heir who 
would carry on his name with distinction. Seeing that Robert 
had promise, he set about the architecture of his son's fortune 
with the intention of having Robert take over his duties and re- 
sponsibilities in the government. In this Burghley succeeded 
beyond his fondest dream. In 1596 Robert Cecil became Princi- 
pal Secretary to Queen Elizabeth. So prudently did he conduct 
negotiations with the King of Scots that when James came to the 
throne of England in 1603 he made Cecil one of his most trusted 
counselors. In 1605 the King created Cecil Earl of Salisbury 
and in 1608 made him Lord Treasurer. Surely Burghley must 
have smiled in Elysium at the efficacy of the precepts with which 
he had equipped his favorite son and the manner in which he 
had followed them. 

Sometime in the early 1580's Burghley wrote out Certain 
Precepts for the Well Ordering of a Man's Life, sometimes re- 
ferred to as the Ten Precepts, as a supplement to the Ten Com- 
mandments, and gave them to his son Robert. Perhaps he gave 
copies to others besides Robert, or perhaps friends asked to 


have a version of Burghley's distilled wisdom. At any rate 
the Precepts survive in various manuscript versions, 13 and after 
Burghley's death they found their way into print. The first 
printed text was brought out in 1617 followed by other editions 
in 1618, 1636, and 1637. The version printed here is taken from 
a copy written ca. 1615 in a manuscript collection of miscella- 
neous letters and documents in the Folger Library (V.a. 321). 

In the first published edition the printer, Thomas Jones, added 
some further material to fill out his book, since the Precepts 
were too short to make a volume. The title page assures the 
reader that the Precepts are "published from a more perfect 
copy than ordinary those pocket manuscripts go warranted by." 
And it advertises that there are "some other Precepts and Sen- 
tences of the same nature added, taken from a person of like 
place and quality." 14 Succeeding editions added other precepts 
and oddments supposed to be instructive. For example, the 1636 
edition contains not only the material that Jones added in 1617 
but a "Genealogy of Pride." 

In the literature of wise saws Burghley's Precepts took their 
place and enjoyed a long life. How many contemporaries owned 
what the printer called "pocket manuscripts" no one now can 
tell. Certainly Burghley's succinct counsel became part of the 
tradition of seventeenth-century wisdom literature. When James 
Stanley, the seventh Earl of Derby, wanted to write out some 
advice to his son, he borrowed paragraphs from Burghley's 
Precepts and expressed the hope that they would guide his son 
along the path to "repute, honor, and comfort." 15 That Shake- 

13 A manuscript in the British Museum sometimes quoted is Stowe MS 
143. f. 100. In addition to the Folger manuscript printed here, the Folger 
has excerpts from the Precepts in a commonplace book of Henry Oxenden 
dating between 1642 and 1670. An eighteenth-century manuscript in the 
Folger bears the title, "The Precepts of Sr. Wm. Cecil, Lord Treasurer of 
England, 1586." 

14 Quoted from the copy of the edition of 1617 in the British Museum. 

15 Mason, Gentlefolk, p. 67. 


speare saw a manuscript of the Precepts, deliberately travestied 
them, and satirized Burghley in Polonius' advice to Laertes is 
unlikely. The Precepts were translated into German in the later 
seventeenth century and appeared in German versions in 1667, 
1673, 1681, and 1697. During the eighteenth century they were 
frequently quoted and were included in a manual entitled In- 
structions for Youth, Gentlemen, and Noblemen ( 1722; reissued 
1728). Later they were added to editions of Chesterfield's Let- 
ters to His Son. Francis Peck in Desiderata Curiosa (1732), 
after a sketch of Burghley, printed the Precepts and added this 

These precepts have been already twice printed, first at London 
1637, 12, and again since by Mr. Strype. But as I know of nothing 
more masterly drawn or that can better show the true picture of the 
Lord Burghley's mind in almost every circumstance of life; so, after 
the history of his life at large, this paper I thought would best 
show him in miniature, and might therefore well stand here to wind 
up the conclusion of his story. For it fills the whole of his char- 
acter with great and noble sentiments, and shows he was not only 
one of the greatest but also one of the wisest men of the age he 
lived in. Besides, I don't know but this manuscript copy may have 
something more in it than either of the printed ones. And for all 
these reasons I dare say the reader will not be displeased with me 
for reprinting it. 16 

Burghley's contemporaries and the generations that followed 
saw nothing ludicrous or incongruous in the realistic advice that 
the Lord Treasurer drew up for his son. For them it represented 
the wisdom of a practical man who had learned to maintain 
his credit and his honesty and to succeed in a world that was 
less than perfect. It was a goal that every seventeenth- and 
eighteenth-century gentleman might wish for his son. 

Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to His Son and to Posterity, 
first published in 1632, was frequently quoted along with 

10 Peck, vol. I,bk. I, p. 63. 



Burghley's Precepts as the essence of practical wisdom. By 1636 
it had gone through a fifth edition, and in the later seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries it appeared as an item in Raleigh's 
Remains and in the Works. In the first edition of 1632 there is 
included a rather smug piece entitled "A Religious and Dutiful 
Advice of a Loving Son to His Aged Father," which was later 
omitted. It seems unlikely that this can be foisted upon Raleigh. 
In composite works like Instructions for Youth, Gentlemen, and 
Noblemen, Raleigh's advice found a place beside Burghley's 
Precepts and another work of pragmatic wisdom called "Wal- 
singham's Manual of Prudential Maxims." 17 Although the canon 
of Raleigh's works remains to be determined, modern scholars 
regard the Instructions as his composition. 18 

The popularity of Raleigh's Instructions in the seventeenth 
century, like the vogue of The History of the World, may be 
attributed in part to the posthumous reputation of the author. 
In the reign of Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh's overweening 
pride and arrogance made him many enemies. As the dashing 
Captain of the Queen's Guard, he stood near the Queen, and 
those who occupied that perilous post were certain to incur the 
hatred of the envious. Raleigh did nothing to ameliorate their 
hatred, for he was both proud and scornful. But he was a roman- 
tic figure who took part in many adventures, including the 
voyages to Guiana and the exploration of the Orinoco River. 
In later times his long efforts to colonize Virginia were also 
remembered. And his execution in 1618, contrived by a pusillani- 
mous king to please Spain, made him a martyr whose memory 
was cherished by those who increasingly hated James I and his 

1T T. N. Brushfield, A Bibliography of Sir Walter Raleigh (2nd ed.; 
Exeter, 1908), pp. 137-138. 

18 See Ernest A. Strathmann, Sir Walter Ralegh: A Study in Elizabethan 
Skepticism (New York, 1951), pp. 154-156, and Willard M. Wallace, 
Sir Walter Raleigh (Princeton, N.J., 1959), pp. 241-242. 



Raleigh, a bold, dominating personality, known for his hostil- 
ity to Spain, incurred the King's animosity early in James's reign, 
and in November, 1603, he was tried on a trumped-up charge 
of treason and sentenced to death. In December the sentence 
was commuted and he began a long term of imprisonment in 
the Tower of London that was to last, with one intermission, 
until he was finally brought to the block on October 29, 1618. 
The intermission was the period from March, 1617, to the end 
of June, 1618, when Raleigh led the ill-fated second expedition 
to Guiana. King James's cupidity had induced him to release 
Raleigh, for he was led to believe that the adventurer knew of 
a mountain of pure gold in the valley of the Orinoco. When 
Raleigh came back empty-handed and the Spaniards accused 
him of piracy, his fate was sealed. The expedition was doubly 
tragic, for Raleigh's favorite son, named for his father but called 
Wat, was killed in the swamps of the Orinoco. 

During his long years in the Tower, Raleigh had employed 
his time in reading and writing. Unable to give direct attention 
to the education of his sons, he could at least equip them with 
written guidance. Precisely when Raleigh composed the In- 
structions we do not know. Perhaps he began the work soon 
after being committed to the Tower, for the work seems to be 
directed to his son Wat, who was then a lusty child of ten. 
Raleigh's wife was permitted to have an apartment in the Tower, 
and there their second son Carew was born in February, 1605. 

Raleigh's biographers have been troubled by the materialistic 
tone of the Instructions. "Expediency guided his own life all too 
largely, and it is the cornerstone of his moral philosophy," Milton 
Waldman observes. "And in his advice to his beloved son, 
wherein the wise and experienced father sets forth for the young 
man's benefit all that he has learned from life, he counsels him 
never to trust any man too much, to marry for convenience rather 
than for love, to please God lest he be punished. There is no 



suggestion of purity of heart or integrity of character, of the 
beauty of passionately losing one's self in love for a friend or a 
woman or one's Creator. . . . Luckily, though he preached like 
Polonius, he could act like Laertes. . . .* 19 And his latest biog- 
rapher, Willard M. Wallace, remarks that "it is his deeds set 
against his admonishments that causes one to marvel at the 
humorless cynicism and to prefer the erring man to the juiceless 
counselor." 20 

But one should remember that Raleigh, like Burghley, wanted 
his son to establish himself solidly in the milieu that he himself 
knew to be dangerous and shifting. He was concerned to give 
him a working plan for success, not an inspirational lecture on 
ideals. The grim realities of the world that Raleigh knew dic- 
tated the practical and materialistic advice with which he sought 
to equip his son to cope with his environment. This advice throws 
light, not only upon Raleigh, but upon the society in which he 
lived. We must not forget that he was trying to compile a useful 
manual, not a piece of literature or a monument of idealistic 

Young Wat, for whom his father designed the Instructions, 
was a wild youth if we can believe Ben Jonson's Conversations 
with William Drummond. Raleigh had persuaded Jonson to 
undertake the task of tutoring the lad on a journey to France. 
Jonson reports: 

S. W. Raleigh sent him governor with son, anno 1613, to France. 
This youth being knavishly inclined, among other pastimes (as the 
setting of the favor of damsels on a codpiece) caused him to be 
drunken, and dead drunk, so that he knew not where he was, 
thereafter laid him on a car, which he made to be drawn by pioneers 
through the streets, at every corner showing his governor stretched 
out and telling them that was a more lively image of the crucifix 
than any they had; at which sport young Raleigh's mother delighted 

19 Milton Waldman, Sir Walter Raleigh (London, 1950), p. 187. 

20 Wallace, Sir Walter Raleigh, p. 242. 



much, saying his father young was so inclined, though the father 
abhorred it. 21 

Francis Osborne, who produced the third piece of advice re- 
printed here, outdid both Burghley and Raleigh in providing the 
kind of guidance designed to lead to materialistic success, and 
his work, Advice to a Son (1656), enjoyed a great contemporary 
popularity. It had three editions in the first year of its publica- 
tion, and it aroused so much interest that Osborne was led to 
write a second part, much inferior to the first, which he brought 
out with another edition of the first part in 1658. 

Francis Osborne, born in 1593, was the youngest son of Sir 
John Osborne, of Chicksands Priory, Shefford, in Bedfordshire. 
As a young country gentleman he went to London and mingled 
in the court circle, where he attracted the attention of William 
Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, who made him master of the horse 
in his household. For a time he held a minor post in the office of 
the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer, and after the beginning 
of the Puritan Revolution he held small offices under the Parlia- 
mentary government. His wife was Anna Draper, sister of Wil- 
liam Draper, a colonel in the Parliamentary army. A son John 
matriculated in 1648 at Magdalen College, Oxford. About this 
time Osborne went to live in Oxford in order to supervise the 
youth's education, and for him he wrote the Advice to a Son. 

The lad heeded the good counsel of his father and prospered. 
Through the influence of his uncle in the Parliamentary army he 
was made a Fellow of All Souls College in 1650. In 1654 he 
proceeded to a degree of Bachelor of Civil Law and in 1657 be- 
came a member of the Inner Temple. He held various judicial 
posts in Ireland and was offered but declined the office of Chief 
Justice of the Common Pleas in Ireland. He married his first 
cousin, a daughter of William Draper. Whether she fulfilled the 

21 R. F. Patterson (ed.), Ben J orison's Conversations with William 
Dmmmond of Hawthornden (London, 1924), pp, 27-28. 



requirements that would have satisfied his father's cynical ca- 
veats about women, the record does not say. 

Francis Osborne's Advice to a Son was widely read. A sixth 
edition appeared in 1658, and it was included as a part of Os- 
borne's Works, which had a ninth edition in 1689. His other 
works consisted of miscellaneous historical and philosophical 
essays of no remarkable value. 22 The favorable attention which 
the Advice attracted induced Osborne to bring out the second 
part, which was more discursive and less pointed than the first. 
It merely provided more observations of the worldly and mate- 
rialistic kind that had characterized the first part. Only the first 
part has been reproduced in the present edition. 

Although Dr. Johnson scorned Osborne's Advice to a Son and 
remarked to Boswell, "Were a man to write so now the boys 
would throw stones at him," 23 Boswell himself defended Os- 
borne and expressed his pleasure in the essay. Pepys has a pas- 
sage in his Diary describing a conversation with Sir William 
Petty, who remarked on the great popularity of Osborne's essay: 

At noon to the Coffeehouse, where I sat with Sir G. Ascue and 
Sir William Petty, who in discourse is, methinks, one of the most 
rational men that ever I heard speak with a tongue, having all his 
notions the most distinct and clear, and, among other things (say- 
ing, that in all his life these three books were the most esteemed 
and generally cried up for wit in the world Religio Medici, Os- 
borne's Advice to a Son, and Hudibras) did say that in these in 
the two first principally the wit lies, and confirming some pretty 
sayings, which are generally like paradoxes, by some argument 
smartly and pleasantly urged, which takes with people who do not 
trouble themselves to examine the force of an argument, which 
pleases them in the delivery, upon a subject which they like; 
whereas, as by many particular instances of mine, and others, out of 

^Siegmund A. E. Betz, "Francis Osborne's Advice to a Son," Seven- 
teenth Century Studies, ed. by Robert Shafer (Princeton, N.J., 1937), 
provides a detailed study of Osborne's works and the "advice" genre. 

23 Ibid., p. 3. 



Osborne, he did really find fault and weaken the strength of many 
of Osborne's arguments, so as that in downright disputation they 
would not bear weight. . . , 24 

The antifeminist quality of Osborne's Advice induced a hack 
writer, a certain John Heydon, to reply with a scurrilous and 
not very coherent attack which he entitled Advice to a Daughter 
( 1658 ) . Although Heydon had little reputation to lose, another 
writer, Thomas Pecke, pointed out that he had stolen whole 
passages from various authors, including Sir Walter Raleigh's 
Instructions. Pecke's reply to Heydon bore the pleasant title of 
Advice to Balaam's Ass (1658). Heydon brazened it out with 
a fresh edition in 1659 of Advice to a Daughter, which had an 
appendix, 'With a Word of Advice to T. P." All of this of course 
called attention to Osborne's book and stimulated circulation. 

Osborne's Advice to a Son proved a great favorite with Oxford 
undergraduates, and one can well understand how his cynical 
commentary on women would appeal especially to callow youths 
who were still too young to realize that man never fully compre- 
hends the vagaries of woman. At any rate, the Advice stirred so 
much excitement at Oxford that the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. John 
Conant, on July 27, 1658, haled the booksellers before him and 
forbade them to sell any more of Osborne's Advice to a Son. The 
news of this attempt at censorship leaked out, of course, and the 
booksellers, who disregarded the Vice-Chancellor's complaints, 
had more business than usual. 

Osborne's Advice caught the spirit of the age, as the previous 
works of Burghley and Raleigh had done. The ideals of conduct 
represented by the earlier courtesy books of the Renaissance like 
Castiglione's Book of the Courtier had now given way to prag- 
matic handbooks of success, Burghley, Raleigh, and Osborne, 
each in his way, attempted to provide practical guidance that 
would ensure the greatest possible material rewards for the son 

'"The Diary of Samuel "Pepys, ed. by Henry B. Wheatley (London, 
1894), IV, 23-24. 


who would follow the counsel offered. If Osborne is more cynical 
than the others, he reflects the disillusionment of his age, which 
had gone through a civil war with all the maladjustments that 
internecine conflict brings. Whether one should regard his com- 
mentary on the shortcomings of women as a profound personal 
reaction or a convention of his generation, which delighted in 
satirizing women, one can never know. Certainly satire of women 
is as old as the race, and during the seventeenth century such 
satirical commentary was common. On the Restoration stage, 
and in court circles, women were the frequent objects of satire, 
much of it coarse and brutal. Osborne, a member of the country 
gentry and a Parliamentarian, could also add his penny's worth 
of ridicule, perhaps as a literary convention, perhaps as a shrewd 
bit of materialistic wisdom based on his observation, if not his 
experience. Osborne was conscious of composing a literary pro- 
duction, even if it was actually directed to his son, and his work, 
more than Burghley's or Raleigh's, must be regarded as a literary 
creation in addition to being a practical manual composed for 
the use of a particular person. It is not a great work, but it is 
significant as a reflection of the motivations and the ideas of 
Osborne's segment of society. 


The text of Burghley's Memorial for Thomas Cecil is the British 
Museum copy Harleian MS 3638, f. 106 (ca. 1610); that of the 
Precepts is Folger MS V.a. 321. f. 56v-59. 

The text of Raleigh's Instructions is the Folger copy of the 
second corrected edition of 1632. 

The text of Osborne's Advice is the Folger copy of the third 
edition of 1656. This is a better text than the somewhat altered 
version which Osborne printed along with the second part of 




By William Cecil, Lord Burghley 

The Lord Treasurer Burghley, his instruction to Thomas, earl 
of Exeter, his son, upon his going to travel. 

A memorial for Thomas Cecil, my son, to peruse and put in ure 
from time to time concerning divers things given to him in 
charge by me, William Cecil, his father, anno Domini 1561. 

FIRST, you shall remember before all things the commandment 
of the Lord your God, the Father of all, saying Audi Israel, 
Dominus Deus, tuus Deus unus est, et diliges dominum deum 
tuum, ex toto corde tuo, et ex tota anima tua, et ex tota mente 
tua ? et ex tota virtute tua, hoc est ? primum mandatum. 1 

Now for the keeping of this commandment you must daily, 
yea continually, ask it of God in thought and word using this 
manner of speech: Da quod lubes, et iube quod vis, 2 And be- 
cause particular rules are means to observe general command- 
ments, you shall remember to keep these things following. You 
shall privately every morning before you go out of your chamber 
upon your knees say the Lord's Prayer, and that with devotion, 
keeping your mind and intent to the sense of the prayer, for 
otherwise you shall offend God the more. You shall also repeat 
the Creed and then humbly and heartily thank Him for your 
creation, for your redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ, 
and thirdly for your preservation at all times from the danger 
of committing any horrible sin and from other bodily harms 
whereunto you are subject. In these prayers you must not think 

1 Hear Israel, the Lord thy God is one God, and love the Lord thy God 
with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with 
all thy strength. This is the first commandment. 

2 Give to me what you wish and prescribe for me what you will. 

Advice to a Son 

that God is served with words which be but the labor of your 
lips, but you must have your heart free and remember that in 
prayer you are before the majesty of the Almighty, before the 
Maker of all, before Him to whom all that is in heaven and 
earth is subject; yea, you a simple creature, a piece of clay, a 
piece of flesh that shall be carrion, one that by no means might 
presume to speak to God nor to call Him Father but through 
the adoption made by Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord and 

And after this private prayer every morning, whereunto you 
must bind yourself and for no matter of business leave it undone, 
you shall make you ready in your apparel in cleanly sort, doing 
that for civility and health and not for pride. This done, then 
shall you at your appointed hour resort to such common prayer 
as shall be accorded to be said by you and your company, and 
my meaning is that you shall use the manner of the prayer of 
the Church of England in Latin. And for your instructions you 
shall do well to get some small commentary of the Psalter, and 
after your prayer to peruse the exposition of all dark and hard 
speeches for which purpose you may procure Hominius; 3 you 
shall also do the like in procuring some shorter exposition of 
the words of the New Testament and the Old, daily perusing the 
hard places. And for commodity of carriage you shall do well to 
procure these books to be bound in parchment and to note the 
same books with your pen in such sort as at your return I may 
see how you have observed this precept. You may understand 
that in one whole year you may read over the Psalter twelve 
times so that you cannot but come to the understanding thereof. 
And as for the New Testament, you shall by order read it over 
four times in the year; the Old Testament you shall read over 
once in the year. This is all the study I mean you shall bestow 
in divinity, saving you shall do well to be present with attention 

8 Hominius: perhaps William Hunnis, whose Certain Psalms Drawn into 
English Meter was printed in 1550, 

A Memorial for Thomas Cecil 

every sermon that you may hear being preached by men of such 
judgment as accordeth with your profession here. 

Also, you shall before you go to sleep every night upon your 
knees reverently and devoutly ask forgiveness of your offenses, 
calling them curiously and exactly from the morning through 
every hour of the day until that time to your remembrance, and 
not only to remember them but to consider by what occasion 
you fell unto them, to be sorry for them, to detest them, to make 
an appointment to avoid the occasions the next day, to beseech 
Almighty God to guide you in the next day by His Holy Spirit 
that you fall not into the like. If you offend in forgetting of God 
by leaving your ordinary prayers or suchlike, if you offend in 
any surfeiting by eating or drinking too much, if you offend any 
other ways by attending and minding any lewd and filthy tales 
or enticements of lightness or wantonness of body, you must at 
evening bring both your thoughts and deeds as you put off your 
garments, to lay down and cast away those and all suchlike that 
by the devil are devised to overwhelm your soul and so to burden 
it by daily laying on filth after filth that when you would be 
delivered thereof you shall find the burden thereof too weighty. 
And so, ending this matter, I commend you to the tuition of the 
Almighty God, having in this behalf discharged myself of the 
care committed to me by God, being your earthly and corruptible 
father, remitting you again by education of you from childhood 
to this state wherein you are and from ignorance to knowledge 
to the hands of God from whom I received you as His gift, and 
if you shall please Him and serve Him in fear, I shall take com- 
fort of you; otherwise I shall take you as no blessing of God 
but a burden of grief and decay of my age. 

Now for your journey and order thereof, you shall consider 
that I have made choice of Thomas Windebank, one whom I 
trust well, and for the opinion that I have received of his honesty 
and of his ability to travel by reason of his language, my com- 
mandment and charge is that you do follow his advice and coun- 

Advice to a Son 

sel in all your proceedings, and if you shall not have grace t< 
allow of his counsel for his worthiness, yet my charge and com 
mandment is such that if you will not therein conform yoursel 
I shall revoke you with some shame. 

I would that you keep a book like a journal, entering intc 
the same every night all your passages in the day, with the thing! 
of moment of that day's travel; and remember this, that althougl 
many things worthy your remembrance may appear so fresr 
to you as you think not need to enter the same into your book 
yet trust not your memory therewith but commit it to writing 
in such sort as at your return you may see as in a calendar youi 
whole doings and travel. 




(ca. 1584) 

By William Cecil, Lord Burghley 


The virtuous inclinations of thy matchless mother, by whose 
tender and godly care thy infancy was governed, together with 
thy education under so zealous and excellent a tutor, puts me 
rather in assurance of the hope that thou are not ignorant of 
that summary bond which is only able to make thee happy as 
well in thy death as life I mean the true knowledge and wor- 
ship of thy Creator and Redeemer, without which all other 
things are vain and miserable. So that, thy youth being guided 
by so all sufficient a teacher, I make no doubt but he will furnish 
thy life both with divine and moral documents; yet that I may 
not cast off the care beseeming a parent towards his child, or 
that thou shouldst have cause to derive thy whole felicity and 
welfare rather from others than from whence thou receivedst 
thy birth and being, I think it fit and agreeable to the affection 
I bear to help thee with such advertisements and rules for the 
squaring of thy life as are gained rather by much experience 
than long reading, to the end that thou, entering into this exorbi- 
tant age, mayest be the better prepared to shun those cautelous 
courses whereinto this world and thy lack of experience may 
easily draw thee. And because I will not confound thy memory, . 
I have reduced them into ten precepts and, next unto Moses' 
tables, if thou do imprint them in thy mind, then shalt [thou] 
reap the benefit and I the contentment. And these are they. 

1. When it shall please God to bring thee to man's estate, use 
great providence and circumspection in the choice of thy wife, 
for from thence may spring all thy future good or ill; and it is 
an action like a stratagem in war where man can err but once. 

Advice to a Son 

If thy estate be good, match near home and at leisure; if weak, 
then far off and quickly. Inquire diligently of her disposition and 
how her parents have been inclined in their youth. Let her not 
be poor how generous soever, for a man can buy nothing in the 
market with gentility. Neither choose a base and uncomely 
creature altogether for wealth, for it will cause contempt in 
others and loathing in thee. Make not choice of a dwarf or a 
fool, for from the one thou mayest beget a race of pygmies, the 
other may be thy daily disgrace; for it will irk thee to have her 
talk, for then thou shalt find to thy great grief that there is 
nothing more fulsome than a she-fool. Touching the government 
of thy house, let thy hospitality be moderate and according to 
the measure of thine own estate, rather plentiful than sparing 
but not too costly for I never knew any grow poor by keeping 
an orderly table. But some consume themselves through secret 
vices and their hospitality must bear the blame. Banish swinish 
drunkards out of thy house, which is a vice that impairs health, 
consumes much, and makes no show, for I never knew any 
praise ascribed to a drunkard but the well-bearing of drink, 
which is a better commendation for a brewer's horse or a dray- 
man than for either gentleman or servingman. Beware that thou 
spend not above three of the four parts of thy revenue, nor above 
one-third part of that in thine house, for the other two parts 
will do no more than defray thy extraordinaries, which will 
always surmount thy ordinaries by much. For otherwise shalt 
thou live like a rich beggar in a continual want, and the needy 
man can never live happily nor contented, for then every least 
disaster makes him ready either to mortgage or to sell, and that 
gentleman which then sells an acre of land loses an ounce of 
credit, for gentility is nothing but ancient riches. So that if the 
foundations sink, the building must needs consequently fail. 

2. Bring thy children up in learning and obedience yet with- 
out austerity; praise them openly; reprehend them secretty; 
give them good countenance and convenient maintenance ac- 


Certain Precepts 

cording to thy ability; for otherwise thy life will seern their 
bondage, and then what portion thou shalt leave them at thy 
death they may thank death for it and not thee. And I am verily 
persuaded that the foolish cockering of some parents and the 
overstern carriage of others causeth more men and women to 
take evil courses than naturally their own vicious inclinations. 
Marry thy daughters in time, lest they marry themselves. Suffer 
not thy sons to pass the Alps, for they shall learn nothing but 
pride, blasphemy, and atheism. And if by travel they attain 
to some few broken languages, they will profit them no more 
than to have one meat served in divers dishes. Neither by my 
advice shalt thou train them up to wars, for he that sets up his 
rest only to live by that profession can hardly be an honest man 
or good Christian, for war is of itself unjust unless the good 
cause may make it just. Besides it is a science no longer in request 
than use, for "soldiers in peace are like chimneys in summer." 

3. Live not in the country without corn and cattle about thee, 
for he that must present his hand to the purse for every expense 
of household may be likened to him that keeps water in a sieve. 
And for that provision thou shalt need lay for to buy it at the 
best hand, for there may be a penny in four saved betwixt 
buying at thy need or when the market and seasons serve fittest 
for it. And be not willingly attended or served by kinsmen, 
friends, or men entreated to stay, for they will expect much and 
do little, neither by such as are amorous, for their heads are 
commonly intoxicated; keep rather too few than one too many; 
feed them well and pay them with the most, and then mayest 
thou boldly require service at their hands. 

4. Let thy kindred and allies be welcome to thy table, grace 
them with thy countenance, and ever further them in all honest 
actions, for by that means thou shalt so double the bond of nature 
as thou shalt find them so many advocates to plead an apology 
for thee behind thy back, But shake off these glowworms I 
mean parasites and sycophants who will feed and fawn upon 


Advice to a Son 

thee in the summer of prosperity, but in any adverse storm they 
will shelter thee no more than an arbor in winter. 

5. Beware of suretyship for thy best friend, for he which 
payeth another man's debts seeks his own decay; but if thou 
canst not otherwise choose, then rather lend that money from 
thyself upon good bond though thou borrow it, so mayest thou 
pleasure thy friend and happily also secure thyself. Neither 
borrow money of a neighbor or friend but rather from a mere 
stranger, where paying for it thou mayest hear no more of it, 
for otherwise thou shalt eclipse thy credit, lose thy freedom, 
and yet pay to him as dear as to the other. In borrowing of 
money be ever precious of thy word, for he that cares to keep 
day of payment is lord commander many times in another man's 

6. Undertake no suit against a poor man without receiving 
much wrong for therein making him thy competitor. Besides it 
is a base conquest to triumph where there is small resistance. 
Neither attempt law against any man before thou be fully re- 
solved that thou hast the right on thy side, and then spare not 
for money nor pains, for a cause or two so being well followed 
and obtained may after free thee from suits a great part of thy 

7. Be sure ever to keep some great man thy friend, but trouble 
him not for trifles, compliment him often, present [him] with 
many yet small gifts and of little charge, and if thou have cause 
to bestow any great gratuity let it then be some such thing as 
may be daily in sight, for otherwise in this ambitious age thou 
mayest remain like a hop without a pole, live in obscurity, and 
be made a football for every insulting companion to spurn at. 

8. Towards thy superiors be humble yet generous; with thy 
equals familiar yet respective; towards inferiors show much 
humility and some familiarity, as to bow thy body, stretch forth 
thy hand, and to uncover thy head, and suchlike popular compli- 
ments. The first prepares a way to advancement; the second 


Certain Precepts 

makes thee known for a man well-bred; the third gains a good 
report which once gotten may be safely kept, for high humilities 
take such root in the minds of the multitude as they are more 
easilier won by unprofitable courtesies than churlish benefits. 
Yet do I advise thee not to affect nor neglect popularity too 
much. Seek not to be E. and shun to be R. 1 

9. Trust not any man too far with thy credit or estate, for it 
is a mere folly for a man to enthrall himself to his friend further 
than if just cause be offered he should not dare to become other- 
wise his enemy. 

10. Be not scurrilous in conversation nor stoical in thy jests; 
the one may make thee unwelcome to all companies, the other 
pull on quarrels and yet the hatred of thy best friends. Jests 
when they savor too much of truth leave a bitterness in the mind 
of those that are touched. And although I have already pointed 
all this inclusive, yet I think it necessary to leave it thee as a 
caution, because I have seen many so prone to quip and gird 
as they would rather lose their friend than their jests, and if by 
chance their boiling brain yield a quaint scoff they will travail 
to be delivered of it as a woman with child. Those nimble appre- 
hensions are but the froth of wit. 

1 In an eighteenth-century transcript of the Precepts in a Folger MS 
(X.d. 212) which bears a date 1586, these initials are spelled out as 
Essex and Raleigh. 



Walter Raleigh's 

to His 

Son and to 


The second edition, 

corrected and enlarged 

according to the author's 

own copy. 


Printed for Benjamin Fisher, 

dwelling in Aldersgate street 

at the Talbot, 1632 


Many things seem most perfect till more perfect in the same 
kind do appear. This little book was lately published, as we 
then thought, according to the true copy of the great author. 
Such as could have the opportunity to read it did not only ap- 
prove it but justly admire it and made us believe that there 
wanted nothing to it, which is the very essence of perfection. 
But they who had seen the original knew the contrary. They 
found that there were in it not only divers omissions but some 
errors also. The omissions, they thought, caused too great a loss 
to the reader, and the errors they took for an unsufferable wrong 
to so famous an author. It hath, therefore, seemed good to the 
wisdom and justice of authority to give order that in lieu of the 
former copy, now discovered to be imperfect, this perfect one 
should be thus published. 

Here then thou hast, gentle reader, those instructions that 
have been so much and so long desired by many, though pe- 
culiarly belonging but to one. Nor is there injury done hereby 
to him for whom alone they were at first written, for faithful 
counsel in matters general is, among many others, the chief of 
those benefits named by the wise Roman which may be com- 
municated to others without detriment either to the giver or 
him to whom it is particularly given. Here thou hast them now 
perfect, complete, and most corrected, for it is our desire and 
hath been our care that a piece so fairly drawn should be 
presented to thy view pure without stain or blemish. 



THERE is nothing more becoming a wise man than to make 
choice of friends, for by them thou shalt be judged what thou 
are. Let them, therefore, be wise and virtuous and none of those 
that follow thee for gain. But make election rather of thy betters 
than thy inferiors, shunning always such as are poor and needy, 
for if thou givest twenty gifts and refuse to do the like but once, 
all that thou hast done will be lost and such men will become 
thy mortal enemies. Take also especial care that thou never trust 
any friend or servant with any matter that may endanger thine 
estate, for so shalt thou make thyself a bondslave to him that 
thou trustest and leave thyself always to his mercy. And be sure 
of this: thou shalt never find a friend in thy young years whose 
conditions and qualities will please thee after thou comest to 
more discretion and judgment, and then all thou givest is lost 
and all wherein thou shalt trust such an one will be discovered. 
Such, therefore, as are thy inferiors will follow thee but to eat 
thee out, and when thou leavest to feed them, they will hate 
thee; and such kind of men if thou preserve thy estate will always 
be had. And if thy friends be of better quality than thyself thou 
mayest be sure of two things: the first, that they will be more 
careful to keep thy counsel because they have more to lose than 
thou hast; the second, they will esteem thee for thyself and not 
for that which thou dost possess. But if thou be subject to any 


Advice to a Son 

great vanity or ill, from which I hope God will bless thee, then 
therein trust no man, for every man's folly ought to be his great- 
est secret. And although I persuade thee to associate thyself with 
thy betters, or at least with thy peers, yet remember always that 
thou venture not thy estate with any of those great ones that shall 
attempt unlawful things, for such men labor for themselves and 
not for thee. Thou shalt be sure to part with them in the danger 
but not in the honor, and to venture a sure estate in present in 
hope of a better in future is mere madness. And great men forget 
such as have done them service when they have obtained what 
they would, and will rather hate thee for saying thou hast been 
a mean of their advancement than acknowledge it. I could give 
thee a thousand examples, and I myself know it and have tasted 
it in all the course of my life. When thou shalt read and observe 
the stories of all nations, thou shalt find innumerable examples 
of the like. Let thy love, therefore, be to the best so long as they 
do well, but take heed that thou love God, thy country, thy 
prince, and thine own estate before all others, for the fancies 
of men change and he that loves today hateth tomorrow. But 
let reason be thy schoolmistress, which shall ever guide thee 


The next and greatest care ought to be in choice of a wife, 
and the only danger therein is beauty, by which all men in all 
ages, wise and foolish, have been betrayed. And although I know 
it vain to use reasons or arguments to dissuade thee from being 
captivated therewith, there being few or none that ever resisted 
that witchery, yet I cannot omit to warn thee as of other things 
which may be thy ruin and destruction. For the present time it 
is true that every man* prefers his fantasy in that appetite before 
all other worldly desires, leaving the care of honor, credit, and 


Instructions to His Son 

safety in respect thereof. But remember that though these affec- 
tions do not last, yet the bond of marriage dureth to the end of 
thy life; and therefore better to be borne withal in a mistress 
than in a wife, for when thy humor shall change thou art yet free 
to choose again (if thou give thyself that vain liberty). Remem- 
ber, secondly, that if thou marry for beauty thou bindest thyself 
for all thy life for that which perchance will neither last nor 
please thee one year; and when thou hast it, it will be unto thee 
of no price at all, for the desire dieth when it is attained and the 
affection perisheth when it is satisfied. Remember when thou 
wert a sucking child that then thou didst love thy nurse and 
that thou wert fond of her; after a while thou didst love thy 
dry nurse and didst forget the other; after that thou didst also 
despise her; so will it be with thee in thy liking in elder years; 
and therefore though thou canst not forbear to love, yet forbear 
to link, and after a while thou shalt find an alteration in thyself 
and see another far more pleasing than the first, second, or 
third love. 

Yet I wish thee above all the rest, have care thou dost not 
marry an uncomely woman for any respect, for comeliness in chil- 
dren is riches if nothing else be left them. And if thou have care 
for thy races of horses and other beasts, value the shape and 
comeliness of thy children before alliances or riches. Have care, 
therefore, of both together, for if thou have a fair wife and a 
poor one, if thine own estate be not great, assure thyself that love 
abideth not with want, for she is the companion of plenty and 
honor, for I never yet knew a poor woman exceeding fair that 
was not made dishonest by one or other in the end. This Bath- 
sheba taught her son Solomon, "Favor is deceitful and beauty 
is vanity/* She saith further that "a wise woman overseeth the 
ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness." 

Have, therefore, evermore care that thou be beloved of thy 
wife rather than thyself besotted on her, and thou shalt judge 
of her love by these two observations: first, if thou perceive she 


Advice to a Son 

have care of thy estate and exercise herself therein; the other, if 
she study to please thee and be sweet unto thee in conversation 
without thy instruction, for love needs no teaching nor precept. 
On the other side, be not sour nor stern to thy wife, for cruelty 
engendereth no other thing than hatred. Let her have equal part 
of thy estate whilst thou livest if thou find her sparing and 
honest; but what thou givest after thy death, remember that thou 
givest it to a stranger and most times to an enemy, for he that 
shall marry thy wife will despise thee, thy memory, and thine, 
and shall possess the quiet of thy labors, the fruit which thou 
hast planted, enjoy thy love, and spend with joy and ease what 
thou hast spared and gotten with care and travail. Yet always 
remember that thou leave not thy wife to be a shame unto thee 
after thou art dead, but that she may live according to thy estate, 
especially if thou hast few children and them provided for. But 
howsoever it be or whatsoever thou find, leave thy wife no more 
than of necessity thou must, but only during her widowhood; 
for if she love again, let her not enjoy her second love in the 
same bed wherein she loved thee nor fly to future pleasures 
with those feathers which death hath pulled from thy wings; 
but leave thy estate to thy house and children in which thou 
livest upon earth whilst it lasteth. To conclude, wives were 
ordained to continue the generations of men, not to transfer them 
and diminish them either in continuance or ability; and therefore 
thy house and estate, which liveth in thy son and not in thy 
wife, is to be preferred. 

Let thy time of marriage be in thy young and strong years; 
for believe it, ever the young wife betrayeth the old husband, 
and she that had thee not in thy flower will despise thee in thy 
fall and thou shalt be unto her but a captivity and sorrow. Thy 
best time will be towards thirty, for as the younger times are 
unfit either to choose or to govern a wife and family, so if thou 
stay long thou shalt hardly see the education of thy children, 
which being left to strangers are in effect lost, and better were 


Instructions to His Son 

it to be unborn than ill-bred, for thereby thy posterity shall either 
perish or remain a shame to thy name and family. Furthermore, 
if it be late ere thou take a wife, thou shalt spend the prime and 
summer of thy life with harlots, destroy thy health, impoverish 
thy estate, and endanger thy life; and be sure of this, that how 
many mistresses soever thou hast, so many enemies thou shalt 
purchase to thyself, for there never was any such affection which 
ended not in hatred or disdain. Remember the saying of Solo- 
mon, "There is a way which seemeth right to a man but the 
issues thereof are the wages of death, for howsoever a lewd 
woman please thee for a time thou wilt hate her in the end, and 
she will study to destroy thee." If thou canst not abstain from 
them in thy vain and unbridled times, yet remember that thou 
sowest on the sands and dost mingle thy vital blood with cor- 
ruption, and purchasest diseases, repentance, and hatred only. 
Bestow, therefore, thy youth so that thou mayest have comfort 
to remember it when it hath forsaken thee and not sigh and 
grieve at the account thereof whilst thou art young; thou wilt 
think it will never have an end, but, behold, the longest day 
hath his evening, and that thou shalt enjoy it but once that it 
never turn again. Use it, therefore, as the springtime which soon 
departeth and wherein thou oughtest to plant and sow all pro- 
visions for a long and happy life. 


Take care thou be not made a fool by flatterers, for even the 
wisest men are abused by these. Know, therefore, that flatterers 
are the worst kind of traitors, for they will strengthen thy im- 
perfections, encourage thee in all evils, correct thee in nothing, 
but so shadow and paint all thy vices and follies as thou shalt 
never by their will discern evil from good or vice from virtue. 
And because all men are apt to flatter themselves, to entertain 


Advice to a Son 

the additions of other men's praises is most perilous. Do not, 
therefore, praise thyself except thou wilt be counted a vain- 
glorious fool; neither take delight in the praises of other men 
except thou deserve it and receive it from such as are worthy 
and honest and will withal warn thee of thy faults. For flatterers 
have never any virtue; they are ever base, creeping, cowardly 
persons. A flatterer is said to be a beast that biteth smiling. It is 
said by Isaiah in this manner, "My people, they that praise thee 
seduce thee and disorder the paths of thy feet," and David de- 
sireth God to cut out the tongue of a flatterer. But it is hard to 
know them from friends, so are they obsequious and full of 
protestations; for as a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a 
friend. A flatterer is compared to an ape, who because she can- 
not defend the house like a dog, labor as an ox, or bear burdens 
as a horse, doth, therefore, yet play tricks and provoke laughter. 
Thou mayest be sure that he that will in private tell thee thy 
faults is thy friend, for he adventures thy mislike and doth haz- 
ard thy hatred; for there are few men that can endure it, every 
man for the most part delighting in self-praise, which is one of 
the most universal follies which bewitcheth mankind. 


Be careful to avoid public disputations at feasts or at tables 
amongst choleric or quarrelsome persons, and eschew evermore 
to be acquainted or familiar with ruffians, for thou shalt be in 
as much danger in contending with a brawler in a private quarrel 
as in a battle wherein thou mayest get honor to thyself and safety 
to thy prince and country; but if thou be once engaged, carry 
thyself bravely that they may fear thee after. To shun, therefore, 
private fight be well advised in thy words and behavior, for 
honor and shame is in the talk and the tongue of a man causeth 
him to fall. Jest not openly at those that are simple, but remem- 


Instructions to His Son 

her how much thou art bound to God who hath made thee wiser! 
Defame not any woman publicly though thou know her to be 
evil, for those that are faulty cannot endure to be taxed but will 
seek to be avenged o thee, and those that are not guilty cannot 
endure unjust reproach. And as there is nothing more shameful 
and dishonest than to do wrong, so truth itself cutteth his throat 
that carrieth her publicly in every place. Remember the divine 
saying, "He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life." Do, there- 
fore, right to all men where it may profit them and thou shalt 
thereby get much love, and forbear to speak evil things of men 
though it be true (if thou be not constrained) and thereby thou 
shalt avoid malice and revenge. Do not accuse any man of any 
crime if it be not to save thyself, thy prince, or country, for there 
is nothing more dishonorable, next to treason itself, than to be 
an accuser. Notwithstanding, I would not have thee for any 
respect lose thy reputation or endure public disgrace, for better 
it were not to live than to live a coward if the offense proceed 
not from thyself; if it do, it shall be better to compound it upon 
good terms than to hazard thyself, for if thou overcome thou 
art under the cruelty of the law, if thou be overcome thou art 
dead or dishonored. If thou, therefore, contend or discourse in 
argument, let it be with wise and sober men of whom thou 
mayest learn by reasoning, and not with ignorant persons, for 
thou shalt thereby instruct those that will not thank thee and 
utter what they have learned from thee for their own. But if 
thou know more than other men, utter it when it may do thee 
honor and not in assemblies of ignorant and common persons. 
Speaking much also is a sign of vanity; for he that is lavish 
in words is a niggard in deeds, and as Solomon saith, "The mouth 
of a wise man is in his heart; the heart of a fool is in his mouth, 
because what he knoweth or thinketh, he uttereth, and by thy 
words and discourses men will judge thee." For as Socrates 
saith, "Such as thy words are, such will thy affections be es- 
teemed, and such will thy deeds as thy affections, and such thy 


Advice to a Son 

life as thy deeds." Therefore, be advised what thou dost discourse 
of, what thou maintainest whether touching religion, state, or 
vanity; for if thou err in the first, thou shalt be accounted 
profane; if in the second, dangerous; in the third, indiscreet and 
foolish. He that cannot refrain from much speaking is like a 
city without walls, and less pains in the world a man cannot take 
than to hold his tongue. Therefore, if thou observest this rule in 
all assemblies thou shalt seldom err: restrain thy choler, hearken 
much, and speak little, for the tongue is the instrument of the 
greatest good and greatest evil that is done in the world. Accord- 
ing to Solomon, life and death are in the power of the tongue, 
and as Euripides truly affirmeth, "Every unbridled tongue in the 
end shall find itself unfortunate." For in all that ever I observed 
in the course of worldly things, I ever found that men's fortunes 
are oftener made by their tongues than by their virtues and 
more men's fortunes overthrown thereby also than by their vices. 
And to conclude, all quarrels, mischief, hatred, and destruction 
ariseth from unadvised speech, and in much speech there are 
many errors, out of which thy enemies shall ever take the most 
dangerous advantage. And as thou shalt be happy if thou thyself 
observe these things, so shall it be most profitable for thee to 
avoid their companies that err in that kind, and not to hearken 
to talebearers, to inquisitive persons and such as busy themselves 
with other men's estates, that creep into houses as spies to learn 
news which concern them not; for, assure thyself, such persons 
are most base and unworthy, and I never knew any of them 
prosper or respected among worthy or wise men. 

Take heed also that thou be not found a liar, for a lying spirit 
is hateful both to God and man. A liar is commonly a coward, 
for he dares not avow truth; a liar is trusted of no man; he can 
have no credit either in public nor private. And if there were no 
more arguments than this, know that our Lord in St. John saith 
that it is a vice proper to Satan, lying being opposite to the nature 
of God, which consisteth in truth, and the gain of lying is nothing 


Instructions to His Son 

else but not to be trusted of any nor to be believed when we say 
the truth. It is said in the Proverbs that God hateth false lips and 
he that speaketh lies shall perish. Thus thou mayest see and find 
in all the books of God how odious and contrary to God a liar is, 
and, for the world, believe it that it never did any man good 
(except in the extremity of saving life), for a liar is a base, 
unworthy, and cowardly spirit. 


Amongst all other things of the world take care of thy estate, 
which thou shalt ever preserve if thou observe three things. 
First, that thou know what thou hast, what everything is worth 
that thou hast, and to see that thou art not wasted by thy 
servants and officers. The second is that thou never spend any- 
thing before thou have it, for borrowing is the canker and death 
of every man's estate. The third is that thou suffer not thyself to 
be wounded for other men's faults and scourged for other men's 
offenses, which is to be surety for another, for thereby millions 
of men have been beggared and destroyed, paying the reckoning 
of other men's riot and the charge of other men's folly and 
prodigality. If thou smart, smart for thine own sins, and above 
all things be not made an ass to carry the burdens of other men. 
If thy friend desire thee to be his surety, give him a part of what 
thou hast to spare; if he press thee farther, he is not thy friend 
at all, for friendship rather chooseth harm to itself than offereth 
it. If thou be bound for a stranger, thou art a fool; if for a 
merchant, thou puttest thy estate to learn to swim; if for a 
churchman, he hath no inheritance; if for a lawyer, he will find 
an evasion by a syllable or word to abuse thee; if for a poor man, 
thou must pay it thyself; if for a rich man, it needs not. Therefore, 
from suretyship as from a manslayer or enchanter bless thyself, 
for the best profit and return will be this: that if thou force him 


Advice to a Son 

for whom thou art bound to pay it himself, he will become 
thy enemy; if thou use to pay it thyself, thou wilt be a beggar 
and believe thy father in this and print it in thy thought, thai 
what virtue soever thou hast be it never so manifold, if thoi 
be poor withal, thou and thy qualities shall be despised. Besides 
poverty is ofttimes sent as a curse of God; it is a shame amongsl 
men, an imprisonment of the mind, a vexation of every worth) 
spirit. Thou shalt neither help thyself nor others; thou shall 
drown in thee all thy virtues, having no means to show them- 
thou shalt be a burden and an eyesore to thy friends; every man 
will fear thy company; thou shalt be driven basely to beg and 
depend on others; to flatter unworthy men; to make dishonest 
shifts; and, to conclude, poverty provokes a man to do infamous 
and detested deeds. Let no vanity, therefore, or persuasion draw 
thee to that worst of worldly miseries. 

If thou be rich, it will give thee pleasure in health, comfort in 
sickness, keep thy mind and body free, save thee from many 
perils, relieve thee in thy elder years, relieve the poor and thy 
honest friends, and give means to thy posterity to live and defend 
themselves and thine own fame, where it is said in the Proverbs 
that he shall be sore vexed that is surety for a stranger and he 
that hateth suretyship is sure. It is further said the poor is hated 
even of his own neighbor but the rich have many friends. Lend 
not to him that is mightier than thyself, for if thou lendest him 
count it but lost; be not surety above thy power, for if thou be 
surety think to pay it. 


Let thy servants be such as thou mayest command, and enter- 
tain none about thee but yeomen to whom thou givest wages, 
for those that will serve thee without thy hire will cost thee 
treble as much as they that know their fare. If thou trust any 


Instructions to His Son 

servant with thy purse, be sure thou take his account ere thou 
sleep, for if thou put it off, thou wilt then afterwards for tedious- 
ness neglect it; I myself have lost thereby more than I am worth. 
And whatsoever thy servant gaineth thereby he will never thank 
thee but laugh thy simplicity to scorn; and besides, it is the way 
to make thy servants thieves which else would be honest. 


Exceed not in the humor of rags and bravery, for these will 
soon wear out of fashion, but money in thy purse will ever be in 
fashion, and no man is esteemed for gay garments but by fools 
and women. 


On the other side, take heed that thou seek not riches basely 
nor attain them by evil means; destroy no man for his wealth 
nor take anything from the poor, for the cry and complaint 
thereof will pierce the heavens. And it is most detestable before 
God and most dishonorable before worthy men to wrest any- 
thing from the needy and laboring soul. God will never prosper 
thee in aught, if thou offend therein. But use thy poor neighbors 
and tenants well; pine not them and their children to add super- 
fluity and needless expenses to thyself. He that hath pity on an- 
other man's sorrows shall be free from it himself, and he that 
delighteth in and scorneth the misery of another shall one time 
or other fall into it himself. Remember this precept: he that hath 
mercy on the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and the Lord will 
recompense him what he hath given. I do not understand those 
for poor which are vagabonds and beggars, but those that labor 
to live such as are old and cannot travail, such poor widows and 


Advice to a Son 

fatherless children as are ordered to be relieved, and the poor 
tenants that travail to pay their rents and are driven to poverty 
by mischance and not by riot or careless expenses; on such have 
thou compassion and God will bless thee for it. Make not the 
hungry soul sorrowful; defer not the gift of the needy, for if he 
curse thee in the bitterness of his soul his prayer shall be heard 
of Him that made him. 


Take especial care that thou delight not in wine, for there 
never was any man that came to honor or preferment that loved 
it; for it transformed! a man into a beast, decayeth health, 
poisoneth the breath, destroyeth natural heat, brings a man's 
stomach to an artificial heat, deformeth the face, rotteth the 
teeth, and, to conclude, maketh a man contemptible, soon old 
and despised of all wise and worthy men, hated in thy servants, 
in thyself, and companions, for it is a bewitching and infectious 
vice. And remember my words that it were better for a man to 
be subject to any vice than to it, for all other vanities and sins 
are recovered; but a drunkard will never shake off the delight 
of beastliness, for the longer it possesseth a man the more he 
will delight in it, and the elder he groweth the more he shall 
be subject to it, for it dulleth the spirits and destroyeth the 
body as ivy doth the old tree or as the worm that engendereth 
in the kernel of the nut. Take heed, therefore, that such a cureless 
canker possess not thy youth nor such a beastly infection thy old 
age; for then shall all thy life be but as the life of a beast, and 
after thy death thou shalt only leave a shameful infamy to the 
posterity who shall study to forget that such a one was their 

Anacharsis saith, "The first draught serveth for health, the 
second for pleasure, the third for shame, the fourth for mad- 


Instructions to His Son 

ness," 1 but in youth there is not so much as one draught per- 
mitted, for it putteth fire to fire and wasteth the natural heat and 
feed of generation. And, therefore, except thou desire to hasten 
thine end, take this for a general rule: that thou never add an 
artificial heat to thy body by wine or spice until thou find that 
time hath decayed thy natural heat, and the sooner thou begin- 
nest to help nature the sooner she will forsake thee and trust 
altogether to art. "Who have misfortune," saith Solomon, "who 
have sorrow and grief, who have trouble without sighing, stripes 
without cause, and faintness of eyes? even they that sit at wine 
and strain themselves to empty cups." Pliny saith, "Wine maketh 
the hand quivering, the eyes watery, the night unquiet, lewd 
dreams, a stinking breath in the morning, and an utter forget- 
fulness of all things." 

Whosoever loveth wine shall not be trusted of any man, for 
he cannot keep a secret; wine maketh a man not only a beast 
but a mad man, and if thou love it thy own wife, thy children, 
and thy friends will despise thee. In drink men care not what 
they say, what offense they give; they forget comeliness, commit 
disorders, and, to conclude, offend all virtuous and honest com- 
pany and God most of all, to whom we daily pray for health 
and a life free from pain. "And yet by drunkenness and gluttony 
(which is the drunkenness of feeding) we draw on," saith He- 
siod, "a swift, hasty, untimely, cruel, and an infamous old age." 2 
And St. Austin describeth drunkenness in this manner, Ebrietas 
est blandus daemon, dulce venenum, suave peccatum; quam qui 
habet, seipsum non habet; quam qui facit, peccatum non facit 
sed ipse est peccatum? Drunkenness is a flattering devil, a sweet 
poison, a pleasant sin; which whosoever hath, hath not himself; 

1 Anacharsis: a Scythian sage whose activities are described by both 
Herodotus and Plutarch. Lucian wrote an imaginary dialogue between 
Solon and Anacharsis. 

a The Works and Days of Hesiod, an early Greek poet, was frequently 
cited by Elizabethan writers. 

8 St. Austin: St. Augustine. 


Advice to a Son 

which whosover doth commit, doth not commit sin but he him- 
self wholly is sin. 

Innocentius saith, Quid turpius ebrioso cui faetor in ore, 
tremor in corpore, qui promit stulta, promit occulta, cui mens 
alienatur, fades transformatur; nullum secretum ubi regnat 
ebrietas, et quid non aliud designed malum; faecundi calices 
quern non fecere desertum* What is filthier than a drunken man 
to whom there is stink in the mouth, trembling in the body; 
which uttereth foolish things and revealeth secret things; whose 
mind is alienate and face transformed? Whom have not plentiful 
cups made eloquent and talking? 

When Diogenes saw a house to be sold whereof the owner 
was given to drink, "I thought at the last," quoth Diogenes, 'Tie 
would spew out a whole house." Sciebam, inquit, quod domuus 
tandem evomeret. 


Now for the world, I know it too well to persuade thee to dive 
into the practices thereof, rather stand upon thine own guard 
against all that tempt thee thereunto or may practice upon thee 
in thy conscience, thy reputation, or thy purse. Resolve that no 
man is wise or safe but he that is honest. Serve God; let Him 
be the author of all thy actions; commend all thy endeavors to 
Him that must either wither or prosper them; please Him with 
prayer lest if He frown He confound all thy fortunes and labors 
like drops of rain on the sandy ground. Let my experienced 
advice and fatherly instructions sink deep into thy heart, so 
God direct thee in all His ways and fill thy heart with His grace. 

4 Innocentius: Pope Innocent III, whose De contemptu mundi was 
translated by H. Kerton as The Mirror of Man's Life (1576), a popular 
work that went through four editions in the next ten years. 




for Your Better Conduct 

through the Various 
and Most Important Encounters 

o This Life 
under These General Heads 

I. Studies, etc. 

II. Love and Marriage 

III. Travel 

IV. Government 

V. Religion 

[By Francis Osborne] 

Printed by H. Hall, Printer to the University, 
for Thomas Robinson, 1656. 

To the Reader 

SUCH as make it their business with the spider to suck out the 
crudities and corruptions in books are unlikely to fail of matter 
here yet may come far short of the credit, and good might accrue 
to themselves and others did they pore less on what is really 
amiss and more on that which is not yet brought under a per- 
fect knowledge (impossible to be taken up pure by those that 
begin but now to scramble for it), new opinions, though perhaps 
untrue, rather gaining than losing repute by opposition. This 
breeds matter of wonder why so many should hazard their fame 
by running and yelping after those prodigious wits of this last 
age, B., D., H., etc., men not unable with Abner to silence these 
swifter writers with the butt end of their quills, and so richly 
endowed from nature as they are able to traffic upon their single 
stock without obliging the credit of ancient authors, who, for 
aught I know, were of poorer parts and might learn of them 
were they in being. This is said to honor those that can take their 
pastime in the depths of reason, and not to shroud my poor inter- 
est under theirs whose books deserve better coverings than can 
be picked out of the choicest of my papers or theirs that have 
the impudence to traduce them. To conclude, many that can 
buy books want wit to use them. 

Published of late by the author of this advice, A Persuasive to a Mutual 
Compliance under the Present Government. 


To His Son 

SON: I have forborne to set your name on the forehead of these 
instructions, not that I am ashamed either of them or you, but 
for suchlike reasons: 

First, because some truths I here endeavor to make legible 
the tyranny of custom and policy labors to conceal as destructive 
to the project of government and therefore unlikely to pass by 
wise men without a formal reproof, who have been long since 
taught by unerring experience that ignorance draws with the 
least reluctancy in the yoke of obedience, being of so sheepish a 
nature as she is nobody's foe but her own. 

Next, to spare you the trouble of arming your reason in way 
of defense upon every alarm they may receive from the censures 
of wiser or weaker judgments. For, not carrying the marks of 
your particular interest, you may stand, as it were, unseen be- 
hind the curtain of indifferency and hear without blushing the 
opinions of others, if chance or your will should please to make 
them the object of their discourse. Amongst whom if any accuse 
them as too cheap and obvious, they are unadvised questioners 
of their own charter, in case they should be fathers who were 
never denied yet the freedom to teach their children to manage 
an hobbyhorse without offering violence to gravity or discretion. 

Neither do we so ordinarily fall through the unevenness or 
difficulty of the way as carelessness and ignorance in the journals 


Advice to a Son 

of former experience. This makes it the greatest demonstration 
of paternal affection, like the pelican, to dissect myself before 
you, and by ripping up mine own bowels to let you see where 
the defects of humanity reside, which are not only the occasions 
of many corporeal diseases but of most of the misfortunes ac- 
companying this life. And though in passing through so much 
weakness they are rendered more deficient than, considered in 
their own nature, in truth they are; yet being the best I am 
able to afford you, they cannot but be looked upon by you for 
as lively a monument of my love as if they bear the magisterial 
impress of a work of Solomon's. 

And in regard of time none can be more opportune than this, 
in which men carry breasts of steel against those of their own 
profession (some niceties excepted) under the imperious pre- 
tense of religion. 

If any blinded with ignorance or misled by a more candid 
nature should engage for the sufficiency of these or anything 
else I have writ that may perhaps hereafter be made public, I 
am conscious of too many flaws in myself to be swelled beyond 
my natural proportion. Your sake alone produced them, that dur- 
ing the little time I have to live you might turn to my judgment 
upon all occasions without trouble, and converse with me, being 
dead, without fear. 

There is no great difference between good days and evil when 
past; yet if thus fortified by the advice of a father no less than 
the prayers of an incomparable indulgent mother you should 
break out into extravagancies, presuming on the opinion of your 
own judgment and the mediation of our love, though it would 
be the severest curse remaining in the custody of fortune yet 
unlaid upon me, I doubt not but to receive more comfort from 
a patience able to bear it than you shall from a repentance suffi- 
cient to blot it out. 

But it is neither delight in me nor charity unto you by jealousy 
to antedate crimes never yet committed. I desire you, therefore, 


Directions for Better Conduct 

to take these admonitions as marks to sail by, not for presages of 

For any faults escaped here through haste or other infirmity, 
I hope your love will be large enough to cover them, not 
exposing out of ostentation or idleness your father's shame; 
whereby not only what is perfect may prove useful, but the very 
mistakes and blots obtain as great a design by exercising your 
wit and industry in their emendation, which I expect you should 
faithfully perform in relation to these or anything else you find 
may traduce the credit or stain the memory of 



Advice to a Son 

I. Studies, etc. 

1. Free schools. 2. Universities. 3. Mere scholars. 4. 
Collegiate discipline. 5. Physic. 6. Volumes. 7, 8. His- 
tory. 9. Choice books, negotiations, ambassadors. 10. Con- 
verse. 11. Pedants. 12. Strong lines. 13. Exercise, of 
14. Style. 15. Letters. 16. Sordid phrases. 17. Courte- 
sies. 18. Counsel. 19, 20. Secretaries. 21, 22. Intelli- 
gencers. 23. Serving wicked masters. 24. Observance. 
25. Dependency. 26. Writing things dangerous. 27. Po- 
etry. 28. Music. 29. Clothes. 30. Buying. 31. Horses. 
32. Riding. 33. Wrestling, vaulting, fencing. 34, Swim- 
ming. 35, 36. Suretyship, trusting. 37. Public faith. 38. 
Contracts. 39. Implicit judging. 40, 41. Pride, baseness. 
42. Gesture in speaking. 43. Boldness. 44. Covetousness. 
45, 46, 47. Thrift 48. Rising out of bed. 49. Eating. 50. 
Drinking, tobacco. 51, 52, 53. Drunkenness. 54. Diet, plots. 
55, 56. Company. 57. Jeering. 58, 59. Proverbs, injuries, 
fighting duels. 60. Insulting. 61. Ordinaries. 62. Dogs, 
boys, whores. 63, 64, 65. Secrecy and boasting of the favors 
of women. 66. Married [women]. 67. Great ladies. 68. 
Masks, plays, etc. 


Advice to a Son 

1. Though 1 can never pay enough to your grandfather's 
memory for his tender care in my education, yet I must observe 
in it this mistake: that by keeping me at home where I was one 
of my young masters I lost the advantage of my most docile 
time. For, not undergoing the same discipline, I must needs 
come short of their experience that are bred up in free schools, 
who by plotting to rob an orchard, etc., run through all the 
subtleties required in taking of a town, being made by use fa- 
miliar to secrecy and compliance with opportunity, qualities 
never after to be attained at cheaper rates than the hazard of 
all whereas these see the danger of trusting others and the rocks 
they fall upon by a too obstinate adhering to their own impru- 
dent resolutions, and all this under no higher penalty than a 
whipping. And 'tis possible this indulgence of my father might 
be the cause I afforded him so poor a return for all his 

2. As your education hath been befriended by a foundation, 
so you may endeavor the requital if God makes you able. How- 
ever, let not the contrary afflict you, since it is observed by some 
that his name who burnt the temple of Diana outlasted theirs 
that built it a fortune God grant may never fall upon our uni- 
versities! Nevertheless, if zeal, overheated in the narrow hearts 
of men ignorant and covetous, should dry up the fountains 
of learning by appropriating their revenues and demolish- 
ing those monuments (to the fame of which foreign nations re- 
sort in pilgrimages for to offer up honor and admiration to these 
shrines never empty of glorious spirits and return more loaden 
with satisfaction than they could possibly bring prejudice), yet 
she should pull down no more than she had formerly raised when 
incited by a contrary affection to charity and knowledge, there- 
fore a provocation not strong enough to distemper a wise man's 
patience who may easily observe in his own or precedent books 
of experience as great maps of devastation. For if one age did 
not level what another had erected, variety were lost and no 


Directions for Better Conduct 

means left to render the present or future generations famous 
or infamous. 

3. Let not an overpassionate prosecution of learning draw you 
from making an honest improvement of your estate, as such do 
who are better read in the bigness of the whole earth than that 
little spot left them by their friends for their support. 

4. I have observed in collegiate discipline that all the rev- 
erence to superiors learned in the hall or chapel is lost in the 
irreverent discourse you have of them in your chambers. By this 
you leave the principal business of youth neglected, which is to 
be perfect in patience and obedience, habits nowhere so exactly 
learned as in the foundations of the Jesuits could they be fetched 
thence without prejudice to religion and freedom. 

5. If a more profitable employment pull you not too soon 
from the university, make some inspection into physic, which will 
add to your welcome wherever you come, it being usual, espe- 
cially for ladies, to yield no less reverence to their physicians 
than their confessors. Neither doth the refusal of fees abate 
your profit proportionably to the advancement it brings to your 
credit. The intricacy of the study is not great after an exact 
knowledge in anatomy and drugs is attained, not hard by reason 
of the late helps. Yet I advise you this: under such caution as 
not to imagine the diseases you read of inherent in yourself, as 
some melancholic young men do that make their first experi- 
ments upon their own bodies to their perpetual detriment. There- 
fore, you may live by, not upon, physic. 

6. Huge volumes, like the ox roasted whole at Bartholomew 
Fair, may proclaim plenty of labor and invention but afford less 
of what is delicate, savory, and well-concocted than smaller 
pieces. This makes me think that though upon occasion you may 
come to the table and examine the bill of fare set down by such 
authors, yet it cannot but lessen ingenuity still to fall aboard 
with them, human sufficiency being too narrow to inform with 
the pure soul of reason such vast bodies. 


Advice to a Son 

7. Be conversant in the speeches, declarations, and transac- 
tions occasioned by the last wars, out of which more natural 
and useful knowledge may be sucked than is ordinarily to be 
found in the moldy records of antiquity. 

8. When I consider with what contradiction reports arrived at 
us during our late civil wars, I can give the less encouragement 
to the reading of history, romances never acted being born 
purer from sophistication than actions reported to be done, by 
which posterity hereafter, no less than antiquity heretofore, is 
likely to be led into a false or at best but a contingent belief. 
Caesar, though in this happy that he had a pen able to grave 
into neat language what his sword had first more roughly cut 
out, may in my judgment abuse the reader; for he that for the 
honor of his own wit doth make people speak better than can 
be supposed men so barbarously bred were able, may possibly 
report they fought worse than really they did. Of a like value 
are the orations of Thucydides, Livy, Tacitus, and most other 
historians, which doth not a little prejudice the truth of all the 

9. A few books well studied and thoroughly digested nourish 
the understanding more than hundreds but gargled in the mouth 
as ordinary students use. And of these choice must be had an- 
swerable to the profession you intend. For the statesman, French 
authors are best, as most fruitful in negotiations, and memoirs 
left by public ministers and by their secretaries published after 
their deaths, out of which you may be able to unfold the riddles 
of all states, none making more faithful reports of things done 
in all nations than ambassadors, who cannot want the best in- 
telligence because their princes' pensioners unload in their 
bosoms all they can discover. And here by way of prevention let 
me inform you that some of our late ambassadors, which I could 
name, impaired our affairs by treating with foreign princes in 
the language of the place, by which they did not only descend 


Directions for Better Conduct 

below their master's dignity but their own discretion, betraying 
for want of words or gravity the intrinsic part of their employ- 
ment and going beyond their commission oftener by concession 
than confining themselves within it or to it, the true rule for a 
minister of state not hard to be gained by a resolute contest, 
which if made by an interpreter, he like a medium may inter- 
cept the shame of any impertinent speech which eagerness or 
indiscretion may let slip* Neither is it a small advantage to gain 
so much time for deliberation what is fit farther to urge, it being 
besides too much an honoring of their tongue and undervaluing 
your own to profess yourself a master therein, especially since 
they scorn to learn yours. And to show this is not grounded on 
my single judgment, I have often been informed that the first 
and wisest Earl of Pembroke did return an answer to the Span- 
ish ambassador in Welsh, for which I have heard him highly 

10. It is an aphorism in physic that unwholesome airs, be- 
cause perpetually sucked into the lungs, do distemper health 
more than coarser diet used but at set times. The like may be 
said of company, which if good is a better refiner of the spirits 
than ordinary books. 

11. Propose not them for patterns who make all places rattle 
where they come with Latin and Greek. For the more you seem 
to have borrowed from books, the poorer you proclaim your 
natural parts which only can properly be called your own. 

12. Spend no time in reading, much less writing strong lines, 
which like tough meat ask more pains and time in chewing than 
can be recompensed by all the nourishment they bring. 

13. Books flatly writ debase your style; the like may be truly 
objected to weak preachers and ignorant company, pens im- 
proving like children's legs proportionally to their exercise, so as 
I have seen some stand amazed at the length of their own reach 
when they came to be extended by employment, as appeared in 


Advice to a Son 

the late King Charles, who after his more imperious destiny 
had placed him under the tutorage of an unavoidable necessity 
attained a pen more majestical than the crown he lost. 

14. The way to elegancy of style is to employ your pen upon 
every errand, and the more trivial and dry it is the more brains 
must be allowed for sauce. Thus, by checking all ordinary in- 
vention, your reason will attain to such an habit as not to dare 
to present you but with what is excellent. And if void of affecta- 
tion it matters not how mean the subject is, there being the same 
exactness observed by good architects in the structure of the 
kitchen as the parlor. 

15. When business or compliment calls you to write letters, 
consider what is fit to be said were the party present and set 
down that. 

16. Avoid words and phrases likely to be learned in base 
company lest you fall into the error the late Archbishop Laud 
did, who, though no ill speaker, yet blunted his repute by saying 
in the Star Chamber, "Men entered the Church as a tinker and 
his bitch do an alehouse." But this may easily be declined by 
those who read for their imitation the incomparable lines of the 
late king, written in a style as free from affectation as levity. 

17. Grant, if ever, a courtesy at first asking; for as expedition 
doubles a benefit, so delay converts it into little less than an 
injury and robs you of the thanks the fate of churlish natures. 
Whereas some I have known able to apparel their refusals in 
such soft robes of courtship that it was not easily to be discerned 
whether the request or denial were most decent. 

18. Be not nice in assisting with the advantages nature or art 
may have given you such as want them, who do not seldom in 
exchange part with those of fortune to such as can manage their 
advice well, as they only do that never give counsel till called 
nor continue it longer than they find it acceptable. 

19. It is not safe for a secretary to mend the copy his master 
hath set him unless owned as from his former inspirations, lest 

Directions for Better Conduct 

he should grow jealous that you valued your conceptions before 
his who measures his sufficiency by the latitude of his employ- 
ment not the depth of his natural parts. This made the Lord 
Chancellor Egerton the willinger to exchange incomparable 
Dr. D. for the less sufficient, though in this more modest, Mr. 
T. B. 1 

20. But in case his affairs be wholly left to your management, 
you must not only look to correspond for his miscarriages but as 
obstinately renounce any honor may be given you to his preju- 
dice, imputing all to his single sufficiency, yourself owning 
no higher place than that of the executioner of his commands. 
For though many great men like properties or puppets are man- 
aged by their servants, yet such are most dear to them as can 
so carry their hands in their actings that they make them appear 
less fools than in truth they are, easily done by giving them the 
honor to concede or deny in public, without interposing any 
other arguments against it than may become the mouth of a 
servant, however you may order him in private. 

21. Write not the faults of persons near the throne in any na- 
tion you reside in, lest your letters should be intercepted and 
you sent out of the world before your time. But reserve such dis- 
course for the single ear of your master, into which you must 
pour it with more caution than malice lest it should come to be 
discovered, as it is odds but it will. And then the next endeavor 
is revenge, it being less danger to traduce a king than his minions; 
the first still looked upon as above blame because uncapable of 
punishment, but the latter are not only subject to accusations 
but the aggravation of their enemies, which fills them full of 
caution and prejudice to all they fear are able or but willing to 
detect them. I could produce sad effects that have followed the 

1 Dr. D.: John Donne, private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, remained 
in his service for five years. Mr. T. B. may be Thomas Bell, chiefly known 
for his anti-Catholic writings, among which The Woeful Cry of Rome 
(1605) was dedicated to Egerton. 


Advice to a Son 

want of care in this but that I intend advice not an history. 

22. It is an office unbecoming a gentleman to be an intelli- 
gencer which in real truth is no better than a spy, who are 
often brought to the torture and die miserably though no words 
are made of it, being a use connived at by all princes to whom 
I give this caution, that they do not stay after their patrons are 
called home, which do not seldom, in emulation to their suc- 
cessor or to gratify the prince they have treated withal, and it 
may be from whom they have received presents and high com- 
mendations to their own king, discover all that are employed 
to do him hurt. 

23. That it is not unlawful to serve, bear office or arms under 
such as ascend the throne or other high places by steps washed 
in blood, you may be abundantly satisfied in conscience by the 
church in Nero's house, the good centurion, and many others 
mentioned in Scripture. 

24. Court him always you hope one day to make use of, but 
at the least expense you can, observing it the condition of men 
in power to esteem better of such as they have done courtesies 
for than those they have received greater from, looking upon 
this as a shame, upon the other as an honor. 

25. Mingle not your interest with a great man's made des- 
perate by debts or court injuries, whose breakings out prove 
fatal to their wisest followers and friends, averred in the last 
Earl of Essex but one, where Merrick, his steward, and Cuffe, 
his secretary, 2 though of excellent parts, were both hanged. For 
such unconcocted rebellions turn seldom to the hurt of any but 
the parties that promote them, being commonly guided by the di- 
rections of their enemies as this was by Cecil, 3 whose crea- 
tures persuaded Essex to this inconsiderate attempt. 

a Henry Cuffe and Sir Gelly Meyrick, implicated with the Earl of Essex 
in the ill-fated rebellion of 1601, were both hanged. Essex accused Cuffe 
of instigating the plot. 

8 Robert Cecil was charged by friends of Essex with having helped to 
bring about his downfall. 


Directions for Better Conduct 

26. Let nothing unjustifiable or dangerous appear under your 
hand which many years after may rise up in judgment against 
you when things spoken may be forgot, as happened to the Duke 
of Norfolk, 4 Sir Gervase Helwys,' 5 and a great earl I knew led 
by the nose all King James his reign for fear of being questioned 
about letters writ to so high a person as is treason by the law to 
solicit, etc. Therefore, I charge you as you tender the blessing of 
your own safety not to write in all ill sense whatever your char- 
acter be; for, if not tedious examination, sharp torture will force 
you to produce a key. 

27. Be not frequent in poetry how excellent soever your vein 
is, but make it rather your recreation than business. Because 
though it swells you in your own opinion, it may render you 
less in that of wiser men who are not ignorant how great a 
mass of vanity for the most part coucheth under this quality, pro- 
claiming their heads like ships of war richer in trimming than 

28. The art of music is so unable to refund for the time and 
cost required to be perfect therein as I cannot think it worth any 
serious endeavor, the owner of that quality being still obliged to 
the trouble of calculating the difference between the morose 
humor of a rigid refuser and the cheap and prostituted levity 
and forwardness of a mercenary fiddler, denial being as often 
taken for pride as a too ready compliance falls under the notion 
of ostentation, those so qualified seldom knowing when it is 
time to begin or give over; especially women, who do not rarely 
decline in modesty proportionably to the progress they make in 
music, such, if handsome, being traps baited at both ends and 

* Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, implicated in the Ridolfi plot of 
1570, was ruined by a letter in cipher which his secretary entrusted to a 
Shrewsbury merchant. 

8 Gervase Helwys, lieutenant of the Tower of London, hanged because 
of implication in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in 1613, made the 
mistake of corresponding with Frances Howard, divorced Countess of 
Essex, who contrived Overbury *s poisoning. 


Advice to a Son 

catch strangers as often as their husbands, no less tired with the 
one than the other. 

29. Wear your clothes neat, exceeding rather than coming 
short of others of like fortune, a charge borne out by acceptance 
wherever you come. Therefore, spare all other ways rather than 
prove defective in this. 

30. Never buy but with ready money, and be drawn rather 
to fix where you find things cheap and good than for friendship 
or acquaintance, who are apt to take it unkindly if you will not 
be cheated. For if you get nothing else by going from one shop 
to another, you shall gain experience. 

31. Next to clothes a good horse becomes a gentleman, in 
whom can be no great loss after you have got the skill to choose 
him, which once attained you may keep yourself from being 
cozened and pleasure your friend. The greatest danger is haste; 
I never loved to fix on one fat, for then I saw him at the best 
without hope of improvement. If you have fallen on a bargain 
not for your turn, make the market your chapman rather than a 

32. Gallop not through a town for fear of hurting yourself or 
others, besides the undecency of it, which may give cause to such 
as see you to think your horse or brains none of your own. 

33. Wrestling and vaulting have ever been looked upon by me 
as more useful than fencing, being often outdared by resolution 
because of the vast difference between a f oin 6 and a sword, an 
house and a field. 

34. Swimming may save a man in case of necessity, though it 
loseth many when practiced in wantonness by increasing their 
confidence. Therefore, for pleasure exceed not your depth, and 
in seeking to save another beware of drowning yourself. 

35. Such as are betrayed by their easy nature to be ordinary 
security for their friends leave so little to themselves as their 
liberty remains ever after arbitrary at the will of others, experi- 

8 Foin: foil or kind of small sword with a blunt edge. 


Directions for Better Conduct 

ence having recorded many, whom their fathers had left elbow- 
room enough, that have by suretyship expired in a dungeon. But 
if you cannot avoid this labyrinth, enter no farther than the 
thread of your own stock will reach, the observation of which 
will at worst enable you to bail yourself. 

36. Let not the titles of consanguinity betray you into a preju- 
dicial trust, no blood being apter to raise a fever or cause a con- 
sumption sooner in your poor estate than that which is nearest 
your own, as I have most unhappily found and your good grand- 
father presaged, though God was pleased to leave it in none 
of our powers to prevent, nothing being truer in all Solomon's 
observations than that a good friend is nearer than a natural 

37. He that lends upon public faith is security for his own 
money and can blame none more than himself if never paid, 
common debts like common lands lying ever most neglected. 

38. Honesty treats with the world upon such vast disadvan- 
tage that a pen is often as useful to defend you as a sword, by 
making writing the witness of your contracts. For where profit 
appears it doth commonly cancel the bonds of friendship, re- 
ligion, and the memory of anything that can produce no other 
register than what is verbal. 

39. In a case of importance, hear the reasons of others pleaded, 
but be sure not to be so implicitly led by their judgments as to 
neglect a greater of your own, as Charles of England did to the 
loss of his crown. For as the ordinary saying is: "Count money 
after your father," so the same prudence adviseth to measure 
the ends of all counsels, though uttered by never so intimate 
a friend. 

40. Beware, nevertheless, of thinking yourself wiser or greater 
than you are. Pride brake the angels in heaven and spoils all 
heads we find cracked here. For such as observe those in bed- 
lam shall perceive their fancies to beat most upon mistakes in 
honor or love. The way to avoid it is duly to consider how many 


Advice to a Son 

are above you in parts yet below you in condition, and that all 
men are ignorant in so many things as may justly humble them, 
though sufficiently knowing to bar out despair. 

41. Shun pride and baseness as tutors to contempt, the first 
of others, the latter of yourself, a haughty carriage putting as 
well a mean esteem on what is praiseworthy in you as an high 
excise on that appears amiss, everyone being more inquisitive 
after the blemishes than beauties of a proud person, whereas 
the humble soul passeth the strictest guards with more faults, 
like the fair-mouthed traveler, without scorn or so much as 

42. When you speak to any, especially of quality, look them 
full in the face, other gestures bewraying want of breeding, con- 
fidence, or honesty, dejected eyes confessing to most judgments 
guilt or folly. 

43. Impudence is no virtue yet able to beggar them all, being 
for the most part in good plight when the rest starve and capable 
of carrying her followers to the highest preferments, found as 
useful in a court as armor in a camp. Scotchmen have ever made 
good the truth of this, who will go farther with a shilling than 
an Englishman can ordinarily pass for a crown. 

44. I do not find you guilty of covetousness, neither can I 
say more of it but that like a candle ill-made it smothers the 
splendor of an happy fortune in its own grease, 

45. Yet live so frugally, if possible, as to reserve something 
may enable you to grapple with any future contingency. 

46. Provide in youth, since fortune hath this proper with 
other common mistresses: that she deserts age, especially in the 
company of want. 

47. But I need not use other persuasions unto you concerning 
thrift than what the straitness of your own fortune points you 
to, more contracted by others' covetousness than my prodigality. 

48. Leave your bed upon the first desertion of sleep, it being 
ill for the eyes to read lying and worse for the mind to be idle, 


Directions for Better Conduct 

since the head during that laziness is commonly a cage for un- 
clean thoughts. 

49. It is nowhere wholesome to eat so long as you are able, 
especially in England, where meat aptest to inveigle the stom- 
ach to an overrepletion comes last. But in case you transgress at 
one meal, let no persuasion tempt you to a second repast till by 
a fierce hunger you find yourself quite discharged of the former 
excess. An exact observance of this hath under God made me 
reach these times and may through His mercy preserve you for 
better. I have heard that the Indians, by the great moderation 
they use, are well able to digest raw flesh, thought by some of 
more natural, if not easy, concoction than what is dry-roasted. 
All compositions with milk are dangerous in a heat and not 
seldom deadly. 

50. Drink not, being hot, unless sack, etc., such droughts re- 
siding rather in the palate and throat than stomach, and so safer 
quenched by gargles, liquorish, a cherry, or tobacco, the use of 
which I neither persuade nor prohibit, having taken it myself 
since sixteen without any extraordinary marks of good or ill, 
but cannot approve of nosing or swallowing it down as many 
to my knowledge have done not long-lived. 

51. Nothing really acceptable to the gusto of humanity but 
prudence may experiment without detection or waking the 
clamorous multitude gratified in all opportunities they have to 
accuse others though far more guilty themselves a temper not 
possible to be attained by the lovers of drink, which will not 
only render my reasons but your own useless. 

52. Were drink capable of counsel, I should advise, if unfor- 
tunately overtaken by such a distemper, not to remove from the 
place you received it in, by which some part of the shame may 
be avoided and more of the danger attending the irregular mo- 
tions of this giddy spirit. 

53. Drink during the operation of the distemper will act all the 
humors habitual in madmen, amongst both which I have seen 


Advice to a Son 

some very zealous and devout, who the fit once over remained 
no less profane. This proves godliness capable of being feigned 
and may raise an use of circumspection in relation to such as 
profess more than is suitable to human frailty. 

54. He that always regulates his diet by the strict rules of 
physic makes his life no less uncomfortable to himself than 
unsociable unto others. The like doth he that useth palpable 
plots in trivial things, who is made by this so suspected in com- 
merce as none will approach him unarmed with the like weapons. 
For though wisdom may purchase reverence and attention, 
subtlety, distinguished from it only by a sly carriage, raiseth 
always suspicion. Wherefore the closeness of the heart in mat- 
ters of consequence is best concealed by an openness in things 
of less moment. 

55. Experience hath found it no less shame than danger in 
being the chief at a merry assignation, since what is of evil favor 
falls most to their mess at the upper end of the table but good 
to the meanest, who have the impudence to scramble up any- 
thing that suits to their advantage as readily as they can find 
oaths to decline what may redound to their loss. 

56. Beware what company you keep, since example prevails 
more than precept, though by erudition dropping from these 
tutors we imbibe all the tinctures of virtue and vice. This renders 
it little less than impossible for nature to hold out any long 
siege against the batteries of custom and opportunity. 

57. Let your wit rather serve you for a buckler to defend your- 
self by a handsome reply than a sword to wound others though 
with never so facetious a reproach, remembering that a word cuts 
deeper than a sharper weapon and the wound it makes is longer 
in curing, a blow proceeding but from a light motion of the 
hand agitated by passion, whereas a disgraceful speech is the 
result of a low esteem settled of the party in your heart. 

58. Much wisdom resides in the proverbs of all nations and, 
therefore, fit to be taken notice of, of which number this is com- 


Directions for Better Conduct 

mon amongst us: "Play with me, but hurt me not/' it being past 
peradventure that more duels arise from jest than earnest and 
between friends than enemies, serious injuries seldom happen- 
ing but upon premeditation, which affords reason some though 
perhaps no full audience, whereas this extemporary spirit con- 
jured up by shame and smart hearkens to nothing but the rash 
advice of a present revenge. 

59. If an injury be of so rank a nature as to extort in point 
of honor an unsavory word never suitable to the mouth of a 
gentleman, swordmen advise to second it with a blow by way 
of prevention, lest he striking first, which cannot but be ex- 
pected, you should be cast behindhand. But this their decree not 
being confirmed by act of Parliament, I cannot find it suitable 
with prudence or religion to make the sword umpire of your 
own life and another's no less than the law upon no more serious 
an occasion than the vindication of your fame, lost or gained 
by this brutish valor in the opinion of none that are either wise 
or pious, it being out of the reach of question that a quarrel is not 
to be screwed up to such a height of indiscretion without arraign- 
ing one or both parties of madness. Especially since formal duels 
are but a late invention of the devil's, never heard of in relation 
to private injuries among the Romans, the gladiators fighting 
for their pleasure as the Horatii and Curiatii 7 for the safety of 
the people. It cannot be denied but that story lays before us 
many killed for private revenge but never accompanied with 
so ridiculous a formality as the sending of challenges, which 
renders the dead a greater murderer than he is that kills him, 
as being without doubt the author of his own death. This makes 
me altogether believe that such wild manhood had its original 
from romances in which the giant is designed for death and the 
knight to marry the lady whose honor he hath preserved, not so 

7 In Roman legend, three brothers, the Horatii, fought three Curiatii 
from Alba Longa. Two Horatii were killed but the third one by a stratagem 
killed all of the Curiatii. 


Advice to a Son 

gently treated by the English law, where if his legs or friends 
be not the better he is hanged and his estate confiscated to the 
perpetual detriment of his family, besides the sting of con- 
science and a natural fear like that of Cain's attending blood, 
by which the remainder of life is made tedious and miserable to 
such unfortunate men who seem in all honest company to smell 
too strong of blood to be taken into any intimate relation. 

60. Prosecute not a coward too far, lest you make him turn 
valiant to your disadvantage, it being impossible for any stand- 
ing even in the world's opinion to gain glory by the most he can 
have of those that lie under such a repute. Besides, valor is 
rather the product of custom than nature and often found where 
least expected; do not, therefore, waken it to your prejudice, as 
I have known many that would still be insulting and could not 
see when they were well. 

61. Speak disgracefully of none at ordinaries or public meet- 
ings, lest some kinsman or friend being there should force you 
to a base recantation or engage you in a more indiscreet quarrel. 
This renders all free discourse dangerous at meetings of mixed 

62. Carry no dogs to court or any public place, to avoid con- 
tests with such as may spurn or endeavor to take them up. The 
same may be said of boys not wise or strong enough to decline 
or revenge affronts, whose complaints do not seldom engage 
their masters, as I knew one of quality killed in the defense of 
his page. The like danger attends such as are so indiscreet as to 
man whores in the street, in which everyone pretends to have 
an interest for his money and therefore unwilling to see them 
monopolized, especially when they have got a pot in their pate. 

63. Reveal not the pranks of another's love, how serious or 
ridiculous soever you find them, it being unlikely the mirth 
should compense the danger. By this you shall purchase yourself 
a retentive faculty and sell your friend a stronger confidence of 
your secrecy, hanging on him the lock of a perpetual obligation 


Directions for Better Conduct 

of which you may ever be keeper of the key either out of love or 
fear; yet many other faults are not more dangerous to commit 
than know without detecting. 

64. Be not the trumpet of your own charity or vices; for by 
the one you disoblige the receiver as well as lose your reward and 
by the other you alarm the censures of men, most being con- 
demned through the evidence they give against themselves by 
their words and gestures. 

65. If it be levity and ostentation to boast when you do well, 
in what class of folly must they be ranked that brag of the favors 
of women, rendering themselves by this no less frail than they, 
it being more shame for a man to be leaky and incontinent at the 
mouth than for a woman to scatter her favors. 

66. To make love to married women doth not only multiply 
the sin but the danger; neither can you, if questioned by her 
husband, use with hope of victory any sharper weapon than 
repentance sheathed in a modest excuse. 

67. Fly with Joseph the embraces of great ladies, lest you lose 
your liberty and see your legs rot in the stocks of the physician, 
they being often unwholesome, ever so unreasonable as to exact 
a constancy from you themselves intend not to observe, pervert- 
ing so far the curse of God as to make your desire subject to 

68. Usher not women to masks, plays, or other such public 
spectacles into which you have not an easy access for money or 
favor, such places being apter to create injury than afford a 
handsome opportunity for revenge. Besides, if those you carry 
be old and deformed they disparage you; if young and hand- 
some, themselves. 


To the reader concerning the following 
discourse of love and marriage 

THIS had not appeared, being a result of more juvenile years, 
but that I feared, if let alone, it might hereafter creep abroad 
from under a false impression and one more scandalous to that 
sex than becomes my complexion or obligation. Therefore, to 
vindicate me from the no less inhuman than unnatural imputa- 
tion of a woman-hater, I do here protest with a reference to their 
charity and my own most serious affections that if the party ad- 
vised had been a daughter, my ink must have cast blacker than 
the rich grain of their angelical beauty is capable to be aspersed 
by, it being observable that such idolaters as made she-deities 
the object of their worship were by all celebrated for most learn- 
ing, wisdom, and civility. Nevertheless, though women be cor- 
dials when desire is past and juleps while the heat continues, 
yet since it is ordinary for dabblers on beauty to mistake poison 
for physic such feminine boxes not always bearing drugs suit- 
able to their inscriptions but being often painted with more per- 
fections than they carry in them I hope this discourse may the 
better be excused, having the example of Solomon to justify the 
harshness of my expressions no less than his follies to warrant 
the necessity of the caution, lest my son should mire himself 
and his hopes in the pursuit of such foolish flames as have 


Advice to a Son 

tempted the strongest, wisest, and most religious out of the 
ways of peace. I shall forestall the reader with no farther com- 
plement than that he would forbear to condemn or praise beyond 
reason, lest he should appear too severe towards my levity or 
indulgent to his own morosity in relation to beauty. 


II. Love and Marriage 

1. The nature and effects of love. 2. Upon youth, tempt- 
ing it. 3. To marry, 4. Unhappily for beauty. 5. With- 
out money, and 6, 7. To swallow the fatal bait. 8. Not an- 
swering expectation. 9, 10. Marry not a famed beauty. 11. 
Laws concerning marriage. 12. Somewhat strange; polyg- 
amy, priests' 13. Marriage, the result of policy. 14, Frui- 
tion tedious. 15. Wives* lust, jealousy. 16. Discomforts 
from children and 17. Other wedlock inconveniences. 18. 
Best palliated by an estate. 19. Portion, jointure. 20, 21, 22, 
23. The unhappiness of poor marriages. 24. Travel, to avoid 
the danger from 25, 26. A handsome woman. 27. Fond 
love an ill counselor. 28. Children, how much to be desired. 
29. Conclusion. 

1. Love, like a burning glass, contracts the dilated lines of lust 
and fixeth them upon one object, bestowed by our fellow crea- 
tures the exacter observers of the dictates of nature promiscu- 
ously without partiality in affection on every distinct female of 
their respective species. Whereas man, being restrained to a par- 
ticular choice by the severity of law, custom, and his own more 
stupendous folly, out of a jealousy to be robbed of a present 
desire, is so hurried away with the first apparition of an imag- 
inary beauty supposed by his fancy grossly 'abused by her serv- 
ants, the senses corrupted and suborned through an implacable 
appetite, which nature for her own end of continuance stirs up 
in all to this fleshly conjunction that no reason can for the 
present be audible but what pleadeth in favor of this soft pas- 
sion, which makes a deeper or lesser impress proportionable to 
the temper of the heart it meets with; causing madness in some, 
folly in all; placing like stupid idolaters divinity in a silly creature 
set by the institutes of nature in a far inferior ckss of perfection 


Advice to a Son 

to that which makes it his business to worship and adore it; 
imagining as false felicities in the fruition as they apprehend 
miseries in the loss, when all they desire is but the fruit of that 
tree, the kernel of that apple which first destroyed us all, fair 
to sight but of fatal and dreadful consequence to the taster, 
rendering him subject to slavery that was born free and suffer- 
ing her to command who ought in righter reason to serve and 

2. To cure youth wholly of this desire were as uneasy a task 
as to divest it of humanity. Therefore, I expect you should be 
tossed in this storm, but would not have you shipwrecked by 
contracting yourself to the ocean, unless with the Duke of Venice 
you might yearly repeat the ceremony to as great an advantage. 

3. For if ever marriages were on all sides happy, which is no 
schism to doubt of, experience never found them among such 
as had no other nealing but what they received from the flames 
of love, which cannot hold without jealousy nor break without 
repentance and must needs render their sleep unquiet that have 
one of these cads or familiars still knocking over their pillow. 

4. Those virtues, graces, and reciprocal desires bewitched af- 
fection expected to meet and enjoy, fruition and experience will 
find absent and nothing left but a painted box, which children 
and time will empty of delight, leaving diseases behind and, at 
best, incurable antiquity. 

5. Therefore, I charge you ( as you will answer the contrary 
another day to your discretion and upon the penalty of a bitter 
though vain repentance) not to truck for or entertain commerce 
upon the credit of marriage with a solitary, that is, an unen- 
dowed beauty which if really intended, you question your own 
judgment; if otherwise, the honesty of you both from whence I 
have known such sad consequences to result as have made some, 
wise enough to presage the mischief of the event, so far concede 
to the tears and misery of the party as they have cast themselves 
out of mere pity and conscience into the precipice of marriage, 


Directions for Better Conduct 

burying their own fortunes and future felicity only to satisfy the 
affection of another. 

6. Marriage, like a trap set for flies, may possibly be ointed 
at the entrance with a little voluptuousness, under which is con- 
tained a draught of deadly wine more pricking and tedious than 
the passions it pretends to cure, leaving the patient in little 
quieter condition in the morning than him that hath overnight 
killed a man to gratify his revenge. 

7. Eve, by stumbling at the serpent's solicitations, cast her hus- 
band out of paradise. Nor are her daughters surer of foot, being 
foundered by the heat of lust and pride and unable to bear the 
weight of so much of our reputation as religion and custom hath 
loaded them withal, that an unballasted behavior without other 
leakage is sufficient to cast away an husband's esteem. Neither 
doth the penalty of a light report laid on the mother conclude 
there but diffuseth itself like a leprosy over posterity, being un- 
capable of any other cure than length of time can deduce out 
of forgetfulness. 

8. It were something yet if marriage could answer the expecta- 
tion of all she boasts the cure of in the large bill our mountebank 
teachers proclaim in every street, which upon trial she often 
comes so far short of as to satisfy none but rather aggravates the 
sins of solitude, making simple fornication to sprout into adultery. 
And if it happen that your wife be impotent or infected, as not a 
few are, with one or more of those loathsome diseases incident 
to weak feminine nature which render her unsociable, you are 
posted off both by lawyers and divines to the same patience I 
do here more opportunely propose before you are fallen under 
so mischievous and expensive a conjunction. 

9. If none of my persuasions nor others' woeful experience 
daily met with in the world can deter you from yoking yourself 
to another's desires, make not a celebrated beauty the object of 
your choice; unless you are ambitious of rendering your house 
as populous as a confectioner's shop to which the gaudy wasps 


Advice to a Son 

no less than the lickerish flies make it their business to resort in 
hope of obtaining a lick at you[r] honeypot, which though 
bound up with the strongest obligations or resolutions and sealed 
by never so many protestations, yet feminine vessels are ob- 
noxious to so many frailties as they can hardly bear without 
breaking the pride and content they naturally take in seeing 
themselves adored. Neither can you according to the loose 
custom of England decently restrain her from this concourse 
without making demonstration of jealousy towards her by 
which you confess yourself a cuckold in your own imagination 
already or incivility to such as come to visit you, though it may 
be strongly presumed your sake hath the least share in this cere- 
mony, however tied in manners to attend with patience till his 
worship, perhaps his lordship, hath pumped his wit dry, having 
no more compliments left but to take his leave. Thus, with his 
invention rebated but not his lust, he returns home, where the 
old preserver of bawdry, his kinswoman, perceiving by his de- 
jected countenance that he came short of his desires, and want- 
ing a new gown, embarks herself for the employment, and to put 
the honester face upon so ugly a design she contracts a straight 
alliance with your (yet possibly unconquered) bedfellow, and 
under pretense of a gossiping, or perhaps a voyage to some re- 
ligious exercise, hurries her away in his honor's coach to a meet- 
inghouse, where though she be taken by storm is fairly sent 
home with bag and baggage, being only plundered of what 
you are not likely to miss, and finding it unsafe to complain, 
returns again upon parole or so often as her new governor pleas- 
eth to summon her; sheltering the fault under custom, your 
unavoidable fate, or perhaps providence (which for their ex- 
cuse some are wicked enough to plead), till her forehead be as 
much hardened with impudence as yours is by reproaches, etc. 
And yet he is the happier owner who hath a wife wise enough to 
conceal the real horns of her husband than she that being inno- 
cent doth by her light carriage make the base symptoms appear 


Directions for Better Conduct 

in the world's opinion. Oh, remember this when you are about 
to forget the pleasure and safety only to be found in a single life. 

10. If you consider beauty alone quite discharged from such 
debentures as she owes to the arts of tirewomen, tailors, shoe- 
makers, and perhaps painters, you will find the remains so in- 
considerable as scarce to deserve your present thoughts, much 
less to be made the price of your perpetual slavery. Be not then 
led like a child by these gaudy butterflies amongst the briars and 
nettles of the world, since, obtained, a little time and use will 
wear off their fading colors leaving nothing in your possession 
but a bald, drowsy moth, which if good will by accident, if bad 
make it her business to, discontent you. 

11. The English laws are composed so far in favor of wives 
as if our ancestors had sent women to their Parliaments whilst 
their heads were a woolgathering at home, allowing no abusing 
of husbands' capital nor marriage dissolvable but in case of 
adultery, not subject to proof but under the attest of two wit- 
nesses at one and the same time. Nor is noncohabitation a suf- 
ficient discharge from his keeping all such children as her lust 
shall produce during his abode between the four English seas; 
so as if his wife be a strumpet he must banish himself or deal his 
bread and clothes to the spurious issue of a stranger, a thralldom 
no wise man would sell himself to for the fairest inheritance, 
much less for trouble, vexation, and want during life. Whence 
it may be strongly presumed that the hand of policy first hung 
this padlock upon the liberty of men, and after custom had lost 
the key, the church, according to her wonted subtlety, took 
upon her to protect it, delivering in her charge to the people 
that single wedlock was by divine right, making the contrary in 
divers places death, and where she proceeded with the greatest 
moderation excommunication; condemning thereby, besides four- 
fifths parts of the world, the patriarchs, who among their so fre- 
quent dialogues held with their maker were never reproved for 
multiplying wives and concubines, reckoned to David as a bless- 


Advice to a Son 

ing and to Solomon for a mark of magnificence. Nevertheless, 
the wily priests are so tender of their own conveniencies as to 
forbid all marriage to themselves upon as heavy a punishment as 
they do polygamy unto others. Now if nothing capable of the 
name of felicity was ever by men or angels found to be denied 
to the priesthood, may not marriage be strongly suspected to 
be by them thought out of that list? though to render it more 
glib to the wider swallow of the long abused laity they have gilt 
it with the glorious epithet of a sacrament, which yet they 
loathe to clog their own stomachs withal. 

12. However, the patient submission to the institution of 
marriage is the more to be wondered at since man and woman 
not being allowed of equal strength are yet so far prevailed 
upon by policy as quietly to submit themselves to one yoke. 

13. For there is not any other constraint to this conjunction 
but what results from understandings so muffled for the present 
that they cannot discern that marriage is a clog fastened to the 
neck of liberty by the juggling hand of policy, that provides 
only for the general necessities of all in gross, not the particular 
conveniencies of single persons, who by this give stronger se- 
curity to the commonwealth than suits with prudence or liberty. 
And to such as ask how should the world subsist did all observe 
the like caution, it may be answered, "As well as without un- 
thrifts, who by spending their estates profusely make way for 
wiser men to be the more happy," and as it is impossible to find 
a dearth of the latter though not compelled thereunto by any 
other law than the instigation of their own folly, so doubt not but 
there will be enough found of the former to stock the world with- 
out putting so chargeable an experiment on your own con- 

14. Ask yourself what desire you ever attained that a long 
and often-repeated fruition did not render tedious if not loath- 
some, though the thing wished for remained in the perfection 
it was before enjoyment? And can your reason promise you to 


Directions for Better Conduct 

continue the same unto beauty, so transitory as it is in a manner 
lost before you can truly consider whether it belongs to nature 
or the dress? Therefore, when discontented with your present 
condition, tumble towards any change rather than into that bot- 
tomless pit out of which no repentance can bail you. 

15. After that age, weariness, wisdom, or business hath dis- 
possessed you of this dumb and deaf amorous spirit and con- 
cluded all desires to uxorious vanities, it is possible your wife's 
appetite may increase and that disease of lust which your youth 
cured before she had leisure to discover it may then unsea- 
sonably interrupt your sleep, calling for that there shall be 
nothing in her but importunity to provoke you to, nor in you but 
the desire of quiet and to conjure down the fierce devil of jeal- 
ousy which haunts the houses of married folks, rendering them 
no less unhappy, dismal, and clamorous than the Temple of 
Moloch, where such children and servants as you most delight 
in shall pass through the fire of daily contention. 

16. Were it possible to assign to your choice the virtues of 
your mother, which I confess are inferior to none, and fancy a 
son with as rich parts as imagination is able to endow a crea- 
ture withal, yet a daughter may come that for want of good 
behavior or care in marriage shall infuse so much gall into your 
cup as will be able to embitter all the pleasure taken in the rest. 
Or if you should escape this in regard of one, the least deformity 
happening to any of the others will cause more grief than all the 
towardliness of the most perfect can outtalk. 

17. Our beldam Eve, to save her longing, sold us all for an 
apple, and still as we fall into the same desires, apprehending 
felicities in things we never tried, we are carried away by her 
peevish daughters, the true sirens wise Ulysses stopped his ears 
against, who under pretense of pleasure and love lead us into 
dens and obscure holes of the rocks, where we consume our 
precious time and bury our parts which might enable us to 
despise or honor this world as best suited our complexions, feed- 


Advice to a Son 

ing all our lives upon the dry bones of want and affliction, and 
like Actaeon torn by our families, nothing being more certain 
than that a married man changeth the shape of natural freedom 
and enrolls himself among such as are rendered beasts of bur- 
den under reason of state, whereas those unclogged with this 
yoke, if they like not the service and discipline of their own, may 
the easier exchange it for that of any other commonwealth. 

18. Though nothing can wholly disengage marriage from such 
inconveniences as may obstruct felicity, yet they are best pal- 
liated under a great estate, all other arguments for it receiving 
commonly confutation from time and experience or are evap- 
orated by fruition, birth imposing a necessity of charge as 
beauty doth of jealousy if not of a bad report, innocency being 
often found too weak to guard itself from the poison of tongues. 

19. The true extent of her estate, therefore, is first to be sur- 
veyed before you entail yourself upon the owner. And in this 
common fame is not to be trusted, which for the most part dilates 
a portion or jointure beyond its natural bounds, proving also not 
seldom litigious and that found given by will questionable, by 
which husbands are tied to a black box more miserable than 
that of Pandora, there being in the law hope of nothing but 
trouble and injustice. Neither do widows seldom put their estates 
out of their own reach, the better to cheat their husbands, per- 
verting so far the course of nature as to make him thrash for a 
pension who ought to command all. This requires love to be 
ushered into this undissolvable noose by discretion, since it hath 
rarely fallen within the compass of example that both parties, 
if wise, should be cordially pleased with their bargain. There- 
fore the yoke of marriage had need be lined with the richest 
stuff and softest outward conveniences, else it will gall your 
neck and heart so as you shall take little comfort in the virtue, 
beauty, birth, etc., of her to whom you are coupled. 

20. As the fertility of the ensuing year is guessed at by the 
height of the river Nile, so by the greatness of a wife's portion 


Directions for Better Conduct 

may much of the future conjugal happiness be calculated. For to 
say truth, a poor marriage, like a father's theft or treason, en- 
titles shame and misery upon posterity, who receive little warmth 
from the virtue, much less from the beauty, of their mother. 

21. The best of husbands are servants, but he that takes a 
wife wanting money is slave to his affection, doing the basest of 
drudgery without wages. 

22. Experience cries in the streets that he who takes his maid 
into the marriage bed finds her no less imperious a mistress than 
he that is coupled in the highest link. For such as bring nothing 
esteem themselves slighted if they command not all, whereas 
better educations are apter to confess an obligation than those 
basely born. 

23. Vast estates are not so sensible of the inconveniences of 
poor marriages as having, besides greater diversions, the staff 
of power to keep the lean wolf from the door, want being no 
less the original of most sins than the mother of all plagues, so 
as the depth of poverty calling upon the bottomless pit of despair 
tempts the ill-bred son for want of better education to change a 
life he thinks cannot be made more wretched to marry the 
chambermaid, by which the no less unadvised daughter learns 
to run away with the groom. Do not the careful looks of all 
fathers give evidence to the truth of that saying: "Children are 
uncertain comforts but certain troubles"? 

24. Therefore, dear son, if you find yourself smitten with this 
poisoned dart, imitate his prudence who chose rather to cast 
himself into the arms of the sea and travel than to let his 
hopes and parts wither in those of a poor whining Dido, 8 who 
is no more able to give you caution for the continuance of her 
own affection than you are of yours or of her beauty. 

25. I have heard a well-built woman compared in her mo- 

* Whining Dido: Characteristically Osborne reduces to a whine the 
Queen of Carthage's tragic lamentation over Aeneas' desertion as described 
by Virgil. 


Advice to a Son 

tion to a ship under sail, yet I would advise no wise man to be 
her owner if her fraught be nothing but what she carries between 
wind and water. 

26. A neat wench, like a fairy picture, may adorn a room for 
a general commerce, or like a painted inn post may tempt you 
as a stranger to while away some scorching hours, but to hang 
her in your heart and turn host to a bare holly bush is so high a 
blasphemy against discretion that it would not only exceed re- 
pentance but pity and forgiveness, especially in relation to you 
who have had these rocks marked out on all sides by the advice 
of splinters or an indulgent father. 

27. But if once you render yourself a pupil to whining love, 
he will read you such contrary politics as shall persuade you 
to make a league with misery and embrace beggary for a friend. 
And after this you are capable of no higher honor than to be 
registered in one of his martyrological ballads and sung by 
dairymaids to a pitiful tune. 

28. To conclude, if you will needs be a familist and marry, 
muster not the want of issue among your greatest afflictions as 
those do that cry, "Give me children or else my name dies" 
the poorest way of immortalizing that can be and as natural to 
a cobbler as a prince, and not seldom outreached by a grave- 
stone. This proves them no fools that made their own choice 
by adoption out of the mass of humanity, not confining them- 
selves to such as the doubtful chance of marriage obliged them 
to, since wives do worse than miscarry that go their full time 
with a fool or a bossive 9 birth. Yet less ugliness resides in the 
greatest personal deformity than in an ordinary mulct of the 
mind. Nor can there be a greater dissemblance between one wise 
man and another though strangers in blood than daily falls out 
betwixt them and their own issue, so as it is rarely observed that 
a prudent father begets a like son, in which nature proclaims 
things of moment not made for stallions and to bury their rich 

9 Bossive: crooked or deformed. 

Directions for Better Conduct 

talents in the tedious commerce and loathsome sheets of a silly 
woman. And if we consult right reason not opinion, more of our 
blood runs in a brother than a child, the surer side being always 
a stranger to the family. The truth is they are really no more 
ours than the curls of our hair or paring of our nails, carrying 
often such thoughts towards us as we should detest any for but 
them, made ours rather by use than nature, as appears in the rest 
of God's creatures, who look no longer after their young than 
whilst they are unable to shift for themselves. This also speaks 
an immoderate sorrow for their loss, as impertinent as the like 
desire to procure them, none being truly capable of felicity that 
situate it out of the extent of their own reach and are overpas- 
sionately affected with other foreign misery than what doth 
purely belong to themselves. 

29. But if this savor too much of the stoic, you may qualify it 
as you please. For I doubt not but the zeal your youth doth yet 
retain towards the creed and practice of others possibly not so 
well taught may at present make much of this look like blas- 
phemy. But when so many winters have snowed on your head 
as on your father's you will think it canonical and fit to be read 
to posterity. 


III. Travel 

1, 2, 3. Its consequence, good and bad. 4, 5. To travel, 
with an ambassador, as a merchant. 6. In case of war, whither? 
7. Directions about 8. Performing divine duties. 9, 10, 11. 
Declining disputes of religion. 12. Regulating zeal. 13, 14. 
Vindicating customs. 15. Comparisons. 16. The Inquisi- 
tion, prohibited books. 17. The Eucharist. 18. Crucifixes. 
19, 20. Foreign churches. 21. Scoffers at their own religion. 
22. English in orders. 23. Or otherwise, the worst com- 
panions. 24. Injuries. 25. Gaming. 26. Women's favors. 
27, 28. Wenches. 29. Impatient desires: charms of 30. 
Women in love. 31, 32. Italian lusts. 33. Gifts. 34. 
Money, removes, 35. Inns, new acquaintance, servants. 36. 
Experience, languages. 37. Turkish incivility. 38. Planta- 

1. Some, to starch a more serious face upon wanton, imperti- 
nent, and dear-bought vanities, cry up travel as the best accom- 
plisher of youth and gentry, though detected by experience in 
the generality for the greatest debaucher, adding affectation to 
folly and atheism to the curiosity of many not well principled 
by education, such wanderers imitating those factors of Solomon 
that together with gold returned apes and peacocks. 

2. They and only they advantage themselves by travel who, 
well-fraught with the experience of what their own country af- 
fords, carry over with them large and thriving talents as those 
servants did commended by our Saviour. For he that hath noth- 
ing to venture but poor, despicable, and solitary parts may be so 
far from improvement as he hazards quite to lose and bury them 
in the external levity of France, pride of Spain, and treachery 
of Italy; because not being able to take acquaintance abroad of 
more prudence than he meets with in the streets and other public 


Directions for Better Conduct 

places, the activity of his legs and arms may possibly be aug- 
mented, and he by tedious compliments become more accept- 
able in the eyes of silly women but useless, if not pernicious, to 
the government of his own country in creating doubts and dis- 
likes by way of a partial comparison. 

3. Yet since it advanceth opinion in the world without which 
desert is useful to none but itself scholars and travelers being 
cried up for the highest graduates in the most universal judg- 
ments I am not much unwilling to give way to a peregrine 
motion for a time, provided it be in the company of an ambassa- 
dor or person of quality, by whose power the danger may be 
rebated no less than your charge of diet defrayed, inconsiderable 
in such a retinue as persons of their magnitude are forced to 

4. Or if your genius, tempted by profit, incline to the life of 
a merchant, you have the law of nations and articles of a re- 
ciprocal amity to protect you from other inconveniences than 
such as indiscretion draws upon rash and unadvised strangers. 

5. And thus manned out, your experience may receive lad- 
ing at the first hand when others, failing of the like advantages, 
must take up that little they make at the common beam yet pay 
more custom and run greater hazards than the whole return 
when cast up is able to compense. 

6. Or in case this nation should again break out into partiali- 
ties, it may not be ill prudence to go where you may have the 
prospect of the war with safety whoever prevailed. And for the 
place, I say France, if you have a purse, else some town in the 
Netherlands or Flanders that is wholesome and safe where 
French may be attained with little more difficulty than at Paris, 
neither are the humors of the people so very remote from your 

7. Now if it be your fortune on any suchlike accounts to leave 
your native country, take these directions from a father wearied 
(and, therefore, possibly made wiser) by experience: 


Advice to a Son 

8. Let not the irreligion of any place breed in you a neglect 
of divine duties, remembering God heard the prayers of Daniel 
in Babylon with the same attention He gave to David's in Zion. 

9. Shun all disputes, but concerning religion especially, be- 
cause that which commands in chief, though false and errone- 
ous, will like a cock on its own dunghill line her arguments with 
force and drive the stranger out of the pit with insignificant 
clamors, all opinions not made natural by complexion or imperi- 
ous education being equally ridiculous to those of contrary 

10. But where you find such discourse unavoidably obtruded, 
mold your arguments rather into queries than dogmatical asser- 
tions, professing it more the business of travelers to learn than 
teach. This, besides the removal of jealousies, will proclaim you 
civil and not bury the hope of a future compliance, muzzling 
the mouths of the rigid zealots who think none worthy of life are 
found out of the train of their own opinions, no less than en- 
gaging the more moderate rather to pity you as one misled than 
accuse you for willful and contumacious, observing herein the 
prudence of our Saviour, who prohibits the casting of pearls be- 
fore such as are more likely to employ them to your damage than 
their own edification. And, therefore, silence ought not in reason 
to be reckoned for a desertion of truth where it cannot be main- 
tained but to the prejudice of what the imperative power hath 
declared so to be. 

11. A sceptic humor, as it is most suitable to any man out of 
power, so especially if he travels, less offense being taken at 
doubters than such as boldly undertake to determine, there 
not always remaining a necessity either in religion or discre- 
tion to give a positive answer, as appears by Christ, who did not 
seldom oppose one ambiguous question against another no less 
dangerous to resolve. Therefore, you may be as well a mur- 
derer as a martyr if you run too unadvisedly into ruin. 

12. Keep your zeal chained for a guard to your conscience, 


Directions for Better Conduct 

not letting it fly upon such things as custom hath not made it 
familiar withal, remembering that the Sadducees who denied 
angels and spirits are not registered for such implacable ene- 
mies to our Saviour as the Pharisees who confessed both. The 
fury of which passion hath transported some so far as to strike 
the Eucharist out of the priest's hands that carried it, choosing 
like giddy Phaetons to burn rather than not manifest themselves, 
unseasonably, the children of God. 

13. Do not imitate their follies who conceit themselves bound 
in honor to assert all customs used in the places they come from, 
which besides contraction of quarrels brands such sophisters 
with the imputation of a partial incivility, custom being of that 
insinuating nature as it can convert into the shape of comeli- 
ness diet, apparel, gestures, and sins that to a stranger may 
appear most distasteful, ugly, and unnatural. This renders a 
defense of the errors of your own country as undecent as the too 
loud proclaiming of them is shameful and unworthy. 

14. As it is neither mannerly nor safe to discommend anything 
used abroad, so likewise is it disadvantageous; for by commenda- 
tion you shall the better serve out the true opinion themselves 
have of it, which upon your dislike will be concealed or height- 
ened out of shame or ostentation. 

15. Fall not into comparisons, for what doth it concern the 
advancement of wisdom whether London or Paris, St. Mark's 
Church or Paul's be the fairest? The like modesty must be ob- 
served at your return home, lest you should seem to have lost 
in your travel through other nations the natural affection so 
justly due to your own, which may raise suspicion of a change 
either in your religion or allegiance. 

16. If the wisdom of the states of Holland were warily ob- 
served who give no other answer for the present to any new 
proposition but peut-Stre (in English, "it may be so"), by which 
they civilly evade a peremptory asserting or denying the validity 
of any argument the hell of the Inquisition would not be so 


Advice to a Son 

replenished with the souls of poor unadvised Christians who, 
made giddy with an impertinent zeal and confident in the prom- 
ises of the treacherous Jesuits, their countrymen (that have 
ways enough to betray you without discovering themselves), 
communicate to them prohibited books in hope to convert them, 
which I advise you by no means to carry with you. This Mr, 
Mole found true in a tedious and sharp captivity, reported to be 
betrayed by Sir T. M. at the instigation of the Lord R. ? to whom 
he was assigned tutor by the Earl of Ex[eter]. 10 

17. To the Eucharist met in the streets, through which it is 
often borne to the houses of the sick, custom no less than the 
injunction of the magistrate obligeth all to kneel or bow. The 
which if a stranger neglect, he is liable to the inquisitors. Now 
if it be an idol, St. Paul saith an idol is nothing. And if it renders 
the meat offered unto it no ways distasteful to a sound con- 
science, how should it deprave me to be uncovered as the rest 
are? it being palliated, if not absolutely decided this way in 
the case of Naaman, 11 and the Duke of Saxony, whom Luther 
permitted to assist the Emperor Charles the First at a mass only 
to preserve a temporal dignity, covering it with the title of civil 

18. Pity rather than spurn at those you see prostrate before 
a crucifix, considering we find it enjoined by the penner of 
The Practice of Piety, 12 too often printed to carry the marks of 

10 John Mole, tutor to Lord Roos, Exeter's grandson, was arrested in 
Rome in 1608 and imprisoned for thirty years by the Inquisition. He was 
charged with disseminating anti-Catholic writings. "Sir T. M.'* is probably 
Sir Tobie Matthew, who had been converted to Catholicism in 1606. Cf. 
The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton, ed. by Logan Pearsall Smith 
(Oxford, 1907), II, 473, and The Letters of John Chamberlain, ed. 
Norman E. McClure (Philadelphia, 1939), I, 255, 265. 

11 Naaman, a great Syrian captain, was annoyed that Elisha the prophet 
ordered him to do such a simple thing as bathe in the Jordan to cleanse 
his leprosy, but was induced to do so and was healed. See II Kings 5:11-12. 

13 Lewis Bayly's The Practice of Piety (1613) was so popular that it 
had at least forty-three editions before 1640. 


Directions for Better Conduct 

anything contrary to the genuine mind of the then Protestant 
church, that all communicants at the article of their receiving 
should imagine the postures of Christ upon the cross. And if so, 
doth it not leave room for a query? Who is the most mistaken, 
he that makes to himself a representation in his heart or on the 
wall? Yet this with the rest is laid before you only as an adviso, 
not a stumbling block and occasion of offense. 

19. Enter no further into foreign churches than the hand of 
your own religion and conscience leads you; for though the 
body of their worship do not take you, the higher expressions 
of zeal and austerity in the preciser sort of churchmen and peo- 
ple taken for the soul of all professions may seem to discover 
some defects in your own. And so displeased on all sides, you 
dash upon the rock of atheism as such do that value the merits 
and sanctity of Christ by his who pretends to be His vicar and 
all moral virtue by the scant standard they find it measured by 
at Rome, where they put out the eyes of the less advised with 
the dust of antiquity, which we seeming to want are not so catch- 
ing to those not wise enough to look behind the curtain of for- 

20. Yet where conscience and reason give you leave to comply, 
as possibly they may in many things, do it ingenuously without 
compulsion or dint of an argument, lest opposing a truth upon 
the bye you give them cause to think you guilty of a falsehood in 
the main. 

21. Consort with none who scoff at their own religion but shun 
them as spies or atheists, for strangers honor them most next 
to those of their respective tenets that are modestly zealous in 
the observation of their own. 

22. Eschew the company of all English you find in orders, for 
as they have imitated the lapsed angels in falling from their first 
station, so they bear the like malevolence to all they despair 
of bringing into the same condemnation, being for the most 
part despicable, poor, and melancholy; the Protestants eying 


Advice to a Son 

them as apostates and the Catholics as fugitives and unprofitable 
devourers of the natives' bread. Thus young scholars, because 
not able to reach all they desire at home, like prodigals abandon 
the bosom of their mother, unadvisedly casting themselves into 
that of want and reproach; Viscount Mont's brother being but a 
porter to a religious house, and many of the rest exposed to such 
hard and desperate missions into the Indies and other remote 
climates as their lives are rendered no less tedious than uncertain. 

23. Besides, he that beyond sea frequents his own country- 
men forgets the principal part of his errand language, and 
possibly the opportunity to get experience how to manage his 
expense, frugality being of none so perfectly learned as of the 
Italian and Scot, natural to the first and as necessary to the latter. 
The English also are observed abroad more quarrelsome with 
their own nation than strangers and therefore marked out as the 
most dangerous companions. 

24. An injury in foreign air is cheaper passed over than re- 
venged, the endeavor of which hath not seldom drawn on a 
greater. Besides, if patience and evasion be not learned by your 
travel, the bills you have taken up may perhaps be discharged 
as to the merchant but quite lost in regard of any return of 
profit to such inconsiderate men as suffer themselves to be 
transported with their passions, since he that is master of them 
shall act and speak reason when others destitute of that modera- 
tion appear mad, uttering nothing but noise. 

25. Play is destructive to estates everywhere but to the per- 
sons of gamesters abroad, rendering them the objects of cheating 
and quarrels, all bystanders being apt to attest to the prejudice 
of a stranger. 

26. He that desires quiet and to decline quarrels, undertaken 
by strangers upon irreparable disadvantages, must above all 
avoid giving or receiving favors from women, there being none 
out of the list of common whores anyways acceptable to which 
some ruffian in Italy called braves who will murder a man for 


Directions for Better Conduct 

a crown doth not pretend an interest either as a husband, a 
kinsman, or a servant. Neither are they safely conversed withal 
in relation to health, participating so far of the nature of devils 
that they are not only instrumental in the sin but many times 
also in the punishment. 

27. Make not the promise of marriage a band to your lust, 
nor think her fruit worth owning shall yield possession upon no 
more formal obligation; presuming that if she can dispense with 
the ceremony by which law only makes her yours, it is no less 
possible that the time and wearisome repetition of the same 
embraces may upon as handsome a provocation tempt her to 
change the substance. 

28. He that owns a whore in a more peculiar sense than a 
common jakes descends from the dignity of reason. And yet I 
have known some so far transported as to marry such an one 
to the infamy of their families no less than their own future 
discontent, making a mercenary woman arbitrator and guardian 
of their issue contrary to the wiser practice of Spain, where 
none are admitted judges of another's interest that have taken 
fees as pleaders themselves lest former use should convert them 
into bribes, it being hard to forego a profitable custom and as 
impossible to impropriate such cattle as to monopolize the air. 
For the bar of honor being once leaped over by that sex, there 
remains nothing certain to the owner but the open fields of shame 
and repentance. 

29. If tempted by an impatient affection to anything not 
without danger or difficulty attained, catechize yourself with 
this question: What wish [has] fortune or labor ever presented 
you with that after a full fruition did not soon grow tedious, or 
at best came not far short of what creaking expectation had 
undertaken it should perform? And let this contemplation mod- 
erate your desires: that all worldly profit or pleasure is cor- 
respondent to a like measure of anxiety and wearisomeness. 
Therefore, let no importunity warp you contrary to right reason 


Advice to a Son 

and conveniency, ever arming your constancy against flattery 
and impudence, strong assailants especially marching under 
the tears and caresses of an handsome and seeming innocent 
woman, from whom it is no dishonor to fly and with whom there 
is no safety to treat, for fear like blind Samson you grind out 
the remainder of your days between want and repentance and 
be led in triumph by her friends and those suborned to seduce 
you, more ready to sacrifice the thanks to their own nets than 
to the easiness of your nature to which it is only due. 

30. If any then be furiously enamored on you whose fortune 
cannot correspond for the troubles incident to marriage which 
God knows are not a few venture the loss of her rather than 
yourself, it being one of the highest pieces of madness to hang 
an indissolvable padlock upon your future hopes only to save 
a wench's longing, with whose soft humor miscarriage is more 
suitable than a man's armed with so much advice. Therefore, 
fly from such as incurable plagues, nothing being more catching 
to unbiased nature than a seeming violent affection, which if 
not built upon a former promise you may leave her justly to the 
melancholy society of her own folly, out of which it is all odds 
but she may happily recover or imitate the voluptuous death of 
that tailor reported to have whined away himself for the love of 
Queen Elizabeth. 

31. Who travels Italy handsome, young, and beardless may 
need as much caution and circumspection to protect him from 
the lust of men as the charms of women, an impiety not to be 
credited by an honest heart did not the ruins of Sodom, calcined 
by this unnatural heat, remain still to witness it. 

32. And, as I have heard, they continue so enamored this un- 
couth way of lust, led by what imaginary delight I know not, 
that such as age and weakness have set beyond the power of 
acting suffer themselves to be patients in that noisome bestiality, 
maintaining to this end emissaries abroad to entice men of deli- 
cate complexions to the houses of these decrepit lechers under 


Directions for Better Conduct 

pretense of an assignation made by some feminine beauty, and, 
thus ensnared, the poor uncircumspect young man cannot with 
conscience do, or safely refuse, this base office. 

33. Where you never mean to return, extend your liberality 
at first coming or as you see convenient during your abode. For 
what you give at parting is quite lost. 

34. Make no ostentation of carrying any considerable sum of 
money about you, lest you turn that to your destruction which 
under God is a stranger's best preservation. And remove not 
from place to place but with company you know, the not ob- 
serving whereof is the cause so many of our countrymen's graves 
were never known, having been buried in as much obscurity as 

35. Inns are dangerous and so are all fresh acquaintance, 
especially where you find their offer of friendship to outbid a 
stranger's desert. The same may be said of servants, not to be 
entertained upon ordinary commendations. 

36. Next to experience, languages are the richest lading of a 
traveler, among which French is most useful, Italian and Spanish 
not being so fruitful in learning except for the mathematics and 
romances, their other books being gelt by the fathers of the 

37. He that is carried by his curiosity under the jurisdiction 
of the Turk or other Mahometan princes shall be used, as they 
esteem him, like a dog, and so to be armed with a more invincible 
patience than commonly accompanies a man freeborn. Insomuch 
as I heard a kinsman say who had been at Jerusalem that the 
richest experience he brought from thence could not in the least 
proportion recompense the trouble he met with, bringing home 
certain marks of the incivility of the people for an uncertain 
discovery of the places famed for Christ's death and burial. And 
though he thought he merited by it a conceit I know uncapable 
of place in your head yet no reward could hire him to repeat 
again those weary steps. Therefore, I advise you to believe rather 


Advice to a Son 

what you may read in your study than go thither to disprove it. 
38. I can say little of plantations, 13 having had no experience 
of them, but that he which changeth his own country shall not 
in my mind do so well to go farther from the sun or where he 
may not at least share in the government. 

13 Plantations: colonies. 


IV. Government 

1, 2. Change. 3. Commotions. 4. Tumults, incendiar- 
ies. 5. Ambition. 6. A war for religion, oppression. 7. 
Submission to wicked governors. 8. Not approving them. 
9. Weariness and fidelity. 10. Submission to. 11, 12. Rec- 
ognition of present powers. 13. The original of dominion. 
14, Fresh families: state martyrs for 15, 16. Fame. 17. 
High birth, titles of honor. 18. Mean birth. 19. Obligation 
to governors, what? 20, 21. To a monarch, to a free state: 
siding. 22. Enemies reconciled. 23. Trust not. 24. In- 
gratitude. 25. Foreign interests. 26. Preferments under 
monarchies and republics compared. 27. Insurrections, con- 
spiracies. 28. Oratory. 29. To speak last, M. Hampden. 
30. No perfection here. 31. Directions to a magistrate about 
preferments, 32, Punishments. 33. The soldiery. 34. The 

1. Contract not the common distemper incident to vulgar 
brains who still imagine more ease from some untried govern- 
ment than that they lie under, not having passed the first form 
of experience where we may learn that tyranny is no less natural 
to power than lust to youth. 

2. If happy for the present, 'tis no better than madness to 
endeavor a change; if but indifferently well, folly. For though 
a vessel may yield the more for tilting or stirring, it renders all 
in it unpleasant to present use, the die of war seldom turning 
to their advantage that first cast it. Such, therefore, as cannot 
make all well, discharge their conscience in wishing it so, 
government being the care of providence, not mine. 

3. But if it be your fortune to fall under such commotions, 
imitate not the wild Irish or Welsh, who during eclipses run 
about beating kettles and pans, thinking their clamor and vexa- 


Advice to a Son 

tions available to the assistance of the higher orbs, though they 
advance nothing but their own miseries, being often maimed, 
but at best laid by without respect or reward so soon as the 
state is returned to its former splendor, common soldiers re- 
sembling cocks that fight for the benefit and ambition of others 
more than their own. This proves it the wholesomer counsel 
to stay within doors and avoid such malignant effects as people 
attribute to the supposed distempers of the superior planets. 
But if forced to take a stream, let it be that which leads to 
the desires of the metropolis, the chief city being for the most 
part preserved whoever prevails in a civil commotion, abound- 
ing in money and friends, the readiest way to purchase quiet. 

4. Be not the pen or mouth of a multitude congregated by 
the jingling of their fetters, lest a pardon or compliance knock 
them off and leave you as the soul of that wicked and deformed 
body hanging in the hell of the law or to the vengeance of an 
exasperated power. But rather have patience and see the tree 
sufficiently shaken before you run to scramble for the fruit, lest 
instead of profit and honor you meet a cudgel or a stone. And 
then, if possible, seem to fall in rather out of compulsion than 
design, since the zeal of the rabble is not so soon heated by the 
real oppressions of their rulers but may be as easily cooled by 
the specious promises and breath of authority. 

5. Nurse not ambition with thine own blood, nor think the 
wind of honor strong enough to blow away the reproachful 
sense of a shameful, if possibly that of a violent, death. For if 
Solomon's rule be true that a living dog is better than a dead 
lion, a quick evasion cannot but be deemed more manlike than 
a buried valor. 

6. A multitude inflamed under a religious pretense are at 
first as unsafely opposed as joined with, resembling bears ex- 
asperated by the cry of their whelps, and do not seldom, if 
unextinguished by hope or delays, consume all before them to 
the very thing they intend to preserve; zeal like the rod of Moses 


Directions for Better Conduct 

devouring all for diabolical that dares but appear before it in 
the same shape; the inconsiderate rabble with the swine in the 
Gospel being more furiously agitated by the discontented spirits 
of others than their own who cannot be so happy in a sea of 
blood and devastation; the dire effects of war as in peace 
though invaded with some oppression, a scab that breaks out 
oftentimes in the most wholesome constituted bodies of states 
and may with less smart be continued on than picked off. And 
because the generality are uncapable in regard of number 
either of reward or punishment, therefore not of use to the am- 
bition or safety of others but for the present, like gunpowder 
during the flash of their discontent, and as a lock in a river, are 
only of force upon the first opening to drive on the design of 
innovation, losing themselves afterwards in a more universal 
dilation either out of weariness or doubt of the consequence. 

7. The example of Brutus rather than Cato is to be followed 
in bad times, it being safer to be patient than active or appear 
a fool than a malcontent an evasion not only justified in the 
person of David and by the eloquence o Paul before his 
heathen judges, but our Saviour Himself is not heard to inveigh 
against the present power though it had made the head of the 
Baptist the frolic to a feast 

8. Own the power but not the faults of the magistrate, nor 
make law assigned for a buckler to defend yourself a sword 
to hurt others, lest partiality should allure you to pass the sen- 
tence of approbation upon anything unwarrantable in its own 
nature. Neither let any formalities used at a inimical tribunal 
as that was set up in the case of Naboth 14 persuade you to 
more than a passive compliance, since such may seem to make 
greater rather than diminish the wages of their iniquity that 
seek to cover rapine with a gown which the sword might pa- 

14 When Naboth refused to give up his vineyard to King Ahab, the king's 
wife Jezebel trumped up charges of treason and blasphemy against Naboth, 
had him stoned to death, and took the vineyard. See I Kings 21 : 115. 


Advice to a Son 

tronize with more decency. And this observed, the people might 
cheaper receive all their injury at the first hand which these 
retailers of wickedness utter at more intolerable rates. The 
result of all is: Ahab might better have committed murder 
single than render so many accessory under the formal pretense 
of a religious fast, etc. 

9. Before you fix, consult all the objections discretion is able 
to make. But once resolved, desert not your party upon every 
access of a fever, as many melancholy spirits did these wars 
who by their often and unseasonable Sittings wore themselves 
so out on both sides as they were not worth owning when suc- 
cess undertook for them that they did turn in earnest; irresolu- 
tion rendering pardon more difficult from either faction than 
it could have proved had they remained constant to any; divest- 
ing themselves of the ensigns of fidelity; looked upon by all 
with the eyes of pity; and do often meet with honor, seldom 
fail of forgiveness from a noble enemy, who cannot but befriend 
virtue though he hath found it in arms against him. Yet if you 
perceive the post you have contracted to totter through under- 
mining treachery or weakness, you may purchase your preser- 
vation by all honest endeavors. For he that prolongs his life 
by the forfeiture of a trust he has undertaken husbands it worse 
than if he buried it in the field of honor, traitors in all ages 
being equally detested on both sides. 

10. Submit quietly to any power providence shall please to 
mount into the saddle of sovereignty without inquiring into 
their right for conscience sake or their births in relation to 
honor, remembering that not only David but the most ramous 15 
for success did not only cut off others* lines but were natural 
shepherds under the cope of heaven before they attained to 
be metaphorically so under the canopy of the chair of state, 
which once possessed clarifies the present incumbent's title 
from the greatest imputations incident to birth or proceeding. 

15 Ramous: branchlike or prolific. 

Directions for Better Conduct 

And the many-headest beast, the multitude, is seldom more, 
sometimes less, galled and vexed by the new than the old saddle 
of riders who out of their greater experience of her brutish 
patience are more apt to load her with the trappings of power 
and the furniture suitable to a throne, whose inventory pride 
increaseth proportionable to continuance and the presumption 
they have of their own ability to keep the people from attempt- 
ing their remove. This may render it indifferent to a wise man 
what card is trump, whose game may possibly prove as fair 
under clubs as diamonds; neither ought he to be troubled 
whether his fetters consist of many links or but one. 

11. If authority exacts an acknowledgment from you, give 
it with all readiness, it being the highest frenzy to dispute your 
innocency with those who are able to convert the greatest into 
a fault. For if it be no dishonor to submit to thieves if fallen 
into their hands, let not the example of a few fools who like 
lice thrive nowhere so well as in a prison tempt you to oppose 
your felicity against the imperative power under which the 
disposure of your person doth wholly remain and therefore 
madness to deny it words. 

12. I abhor the idolatry of the heathen yet cannot but mind 
you of their humility in adoring anything the people set up 
though but hewed out of the body of an oak, most auspicious 
unto swine, and principally after shaking by such storms as 
devils are reported to have raised. Therefore, if you may enjoy 
the liberty of your own conscience and estate, question not 
the desert or right of those under whom you do it. 

13. He that suffers his conscience to mislead him in civil 
obedience makes his guide a stumbling block, and doth not 
consider that all states and kingdoms now extant had their 
foundations laid in the dirt though time may have dried it up 
by oblivion or flattering historians licked it off. 

14. Think it no disparagement to your birth or discretion to 
give honor to fresh families, who cannot be denied to have 


Advice to a Son 

ascended by the same steps those did we style ancient, "new" 
being a term only respecting us, not the world. For what is was 
before us and will be when we are no more; war follows peace 
and peace war as summer doth winter and foul weather fair. 
Neither are any ground more in this mill of vicissitudes than 
such obstinate fools as glory in the repute of state martyrs after 
they are dead, which concerns them less than what was said 
a hundred years before they were born it being the greatest 
odds their names shall not be registered or, if they be, after 
death they are no more sensible of the honor than Alexander's 
great horse or any beast else his master's indulgence or the 
writer's are pleased to record. Neither in a strict sense do they 
deserve such honor for being able to date their possessions 
from before the Conquest, since if any be due it wholly belongs 
to them that were buried in the ruins of their country's liberty 
and not to such as helped to make their graves, as in likelihood 
most did whom the Normans suffered to remain. Therefore, 'tis 
madness to place our felicity out of our own reach or to measure 
honor or repute by any other standard than the opinion we 
conceive of it ourselves, being unpossible to find a general 
agreement in any good or evil report, the reign of Queen Eliza- 
beth being no less traduced than that of Richard the Third is 

15. Be not, therefore, lickerish after fame, found by experi- 
ence to carry a trumpet that doth for the most part congregate 
more enemies than friends. 

16. If you duly consider the inconstancy of common ap- 
plause and how many have had their fame broken upon the 
same wheel that raised it and puffed out by their breath that 
kindled the first report of it, you would be as little elevated 
with the smiles as dejected by the frowns of this gaudy goddess 
formed like Venus out of no more solid matter than the foam 
of the people; found by experience to have poisoned more than 
ever she cured; being so volatile as she is uncapable of fixation 


Directions for Better Conduct 

in the richest jewels of nature, virtue, or grace; the composition 
of that body wholly consisting of contradictions no readier to 
set up this day than she may be to pull down the next. This 
renders it the lowest puerility to be pleased or angry at reports, 
good being inflamed and evil quenched by nothing sooner than 
a constant neglect. 

17. Ostentation of birth, at no time decent, cannot in this be 
safe wherein the very foundations of honor are not only shaken 
but laid bare. Besides, many are so abused in the sound of their 
own or their father's titles that by bustling for the upper end 
they often render that a shame which in itself is no crime, as, 
for example, if the son of the common hunt in English, the 
lord mayor's dogkeeper by reason of the title of esquire an- 
nexed to his place should consider himself as a man of worship, 
etc. Were it not ridiculous, when, God knows, the appellation 
is used for the honor of the city, not the person that wears it? 
The same might be said of all mechanic places at court, which 
to render them the more vendible were blazoned with the false 
alchemy of a like title so far from advancing repute that it sets 
it back in the opinion of all judicious men. Observe how ridicu- 
lous such animals are to pride themselves in the shadow and 
tail of honor when the substance is vanished and the head, etc. 

18. Despise none for meanness of blood, yet do not ordinarily 
make them your companions for debasing your own unless you 
find them clarified by excellent parts or gilded by fortune or 
power Solomon having sent the sluggard to the pismire to 
learn industry and to the living dog rather than the dead lion 
for protection. 

19. It cannot be looked upon as an act of prudence to do 
more for another than in reason may be expected from him 
again upon a like occasion, unless so far as I am obliged to it 
out of gratitude, and no farther can my prince or anyone else 
expect assistance from me. For if I have not my livelihood by 
him, I cannot apprehend any cause why I should expose it for 


Advice to a Son 

him, especially if I may with any probability be happy and 
keep it without him. And because most of the first proprietors 
of government in our days and long before have ascended the 
throne at the cost and trouble, if not contrary to the mind of, 
the people they command, why should any lose that for their 
preservation which was never gained by their benevolence? 
Therefore, if those at the helm have lost their power and I 
not able to find a particular engagement or interest strong 
enough to make their good success inseparably necessary to my 
present or future well-being, I am not bound to go farther on 
with them than suits with my safety and the security my 
judgment gives that they are able to bring me off. All we owe 
to governors is obedience, which depends wholly on power 
and therefore subject to follow the same fate and perish with 
it. For friendship can be contracted between none that stand so 
far remote from the line of parity. Therefore, all superlative 
powers are excepted out of this commerce because situated in 
truth or pretense under a divine right, which no interest of 
mine can reach, much less procure. Then, being so far above 
us, they can be nothing to us longer than able to support them- 
selves. For if they have an extraordinary and particular estab- 
lishment in heaven, it were blasphemy to think they can be 
pulled down by any but God, in the opposition of whose ven- 
geance I am no more able than willing to stand as those must 
that appear unseasonably for them. Besides, powers are estab- 
lished to protect us who are to live happy under them, not 
miserably for them if possibly to be prevented; since all sorts 
of government may be reckoned among the rest of God's 
plagues, poured down upon men for their oppression and dis- 
obedience in the primitive parity which makes our wills, like 
Eve's, subject to others. 

20. No government can be safely engaged by a single person 
beyond requital, kings thinking it a diminution of honor and 


Directions for Better Conduct 

republics a dangerous step to popularity, Here you may see the 
continual use of circumspection, since 'tis possible for virtue 
to form a weapon against itself. 

21. If it be dangerous to overoblige a king, it is mortal in 
relation to a free state, whose ingratitude no less than requital 
is divided among so many as they are scarce capable of shame 
or thanks, every particular disavowing what is generally 
thought amiss and all faults buried in his grave that hath the 
fortune to die next. Therefore, if possible, avoid siding; yet, 
if compelled, remember it is deducible both from the history 
of the great Earl of Warwick 16 and Stanley 17 that a king may 
be as safely destroyed as preserved. And for commonwealths, 
they are in nothing more perfect than ingratitude, either gov- 
ernment finding it better husbandry to pardon enemies than 
reward friends. 

22. A reconciled enemy is not safely to be trusted, yet if any, 
a great one, it being easier for such to execute their malice than 
conceal it. 

23. To conclude this part, imagine few the more capable of 
trust because you have formerly obliged them, nothing being 
more ordinary than natures that quit such scores with hatred 
and treachery. And if you consider whose hearts have been 
most empty of pity towards unfortunate princes, experience 
may present you with millions of such whose hands formerly 
were filled with their bounty. 

24. Ignorance reports of witches that they are unable to hurt 
till they have received an alms, which though ridiculous in 
itself, yet in this sense verified, that charity seldom goes to the 
gate but it meets with ingratitude, they proving for the most 

10 Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (the "King-Maker"), was instru- 
mental in establishing Edward IV of the House of York on the throne. 

1T Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, at a decisive moment in the Battle 
of Bosworth Field, threw his forces into action on the side of Henry 
Tudor and thus assured him of victory and the crown as Henry VII. 


Advice to a Son 

part the greatest enemies that have been bought at the dearest 
rates of friendship which proceeds from the high pride of 
humanity. Therefore, be as little flattered to do good out of 
hope of requital as I would have you terrified out of fear of 
the contrary. 

25. Providence or a severer destiny hath housed under all 
our roofs a sufficient proportion of calamities. Therefore, 'tis 
folly to send to market for troubles as those do that contract 
foreign infelicities, vexing themselves for the loss of the Prince 
of Conde in France, the death of the King of Sweden in Ger- 
many, or the progress of the Turks in Candy, etc., tophets pre- 
pared of old as well to torment the ambitious and unquiet 
spirits of busy subjects as kings. 

26. One may attain to a higher degree of honor and power 
under a monarch than can be found room for in a republic, as 
is apparent in some favorites that have had the administration 
of all affairs. Yet in my opinion this is abundantly recompensed 
in the multitude which the latter employs, who are securer in 
what they enjoy in not being subject to the passions of a single 

27. Republics lie most obnoxious to popular commotions, 
monarchies to clandestine attempts. In the first it is not safe to 
be found unless they be so epidemical as may more than prob- 
ably assure success; in the latter not decent for a person of 
honor though warranted by never so much security, no hands 
being more loathsome than those that smell of blood and 

28. Though law perish a thing unlikely, being the guard of 
all peace yet oratory will still keep in repute as having more 
affections to work upon in a republic than a monarchy, one 
judgment being easier forestalled than many. So as I may safely 
presage, if a golden tongue fall under a subtle head it may have 
a great influence upon the whole senate. 

29. At a conference to speak last is no small advantage, as 


Directions for Better Conduct 

Mr. John Hampden 18 wisely observed, who made himself still 
the goalkeeper of his party, giving his opposites leisure to lose 
their reasons in the loud and less significant tempest commonly 
arising upon a first debate, in which if he found his side 
worsted, he had the dexterous sagacity to mount the argument 
above the heads of the major part; whose single reason did not 
seldom make the whole Parliament so far suspicious of their 
own as to approve his or at least give time for another debate, 
by which he had the opportunity to muster up more forces. 
Thus, by confounding the weaker and tiring out the acuter 
judgments, he seldom failed to attain his ends. 

30. He that seeks perfection on earth leaves nothing new 
for the saints to find in heaven. For whilst men teach there 
will be mistakes in divinity, and as long as no other govern, 
errors in the state. Therefore, be not lickerish after change 
lest you muddy your present felicity with a future greater and 
more sharp inconvenience. 

31. As I would have you primarily to intend the stopping of 
the leaks in your own bottom if called to the helm from 
which in free states none are exempt so you must by no means 
neglect the repairing the broken fortunes of others found to be 
of excellent parts, who if not made friends by preferment may 
prove dangerous to a new-founded state. Neither are prefer- 
ments so scarce or these so numerous but that there is provision 
enough for them in these three nations. I confess Queen Eliza- 
beth most happy in this, which preserved her from civil wars, 
whose foundations are commonly laid by such as are too subtle 
to be discovered. Flames, as in hay or straw, may be kindled 
in the more combustible people by such as shall appear rather 
to bring water than fire, nothing in experience being found 
more mortal than an unseasonable commendation from an elo- 

38 John Hampden, the great parliamentary statesman, was noted for his 
skill in debate and the adroitness with which he employed parliamentary 


Advice to a Son 

quent tongue or a forced compliance from a discontented poli- 
tician. The Consistory and Jesuits maintain throughout the 
world the traffic of sedition and privy conspiracy yet have had 
so much wit as to land it in Presbyterian bottoms and to cover 
their disobedience to governors under the attempts of the Ana- 
baptists that naturally acknowledge none. The truth is, if wise 
men will make it their business they may be easily able where 
the people are unsettled to obstruct all good and promote much 
evil under the specious pretenses of religion and safety. There- 
fore, far cheaper pleased than discontented, being otherwise 
in true policy capable of no slighter security than shall be able 
to cut off all hope or desire of future revenge, the consideration 
of which though it cannot make me altogether approve yet it 
abates my severity in the condemnation of that legislator said 
to have writ his laws in blood, which might be more suitable 
to the complexion of some times than may possibly hitherto 
have been thought. 

32. The like may be imagined of men proscribed, who be- 
tween thirst of revenge and a desire of returning do not seldom 
promote their country's ruin. This also may authorize their 
tenets that hold punishing children with the loss of goods for 
their fathers' crimes as dangerous as unjust. And under this 
head may be reduced all penal laws laid upon faults not really 
prejudicial to the state. Nor can a too rigid scrutiny either after 
personal lapses in manners or uncouth tenets in religion pro- 
duce any good effects to a commonweal where no Inquisition 
is, which under the Papacy draws the envy wholly upon the 
church, made incapable not only by custom but an awful rever- 
ence of all revenge. 

33. Another error may happen, especially where a free state 
is founded in arms, by conceding too great a power to the sol- 
diery, who like the spirits of conjurers do oftentimes tear their 
masters and raisers in pieces for want of other employment. 
Therefore, since it is beyond the plenty of any nation to propor- 


Directions for Better Conduct 

tion a reward suitable to the opinion they have of their own 
merit, it behooves the supreme power to bury the covetousness 
and ambition in the fields of others by a foreign war, yet as 
little to their discontent as may be, always giving them the 
honor of good servants though bad masters, remembering that 
the cause you raised them for is not so deep buried but it may 
rise again to the terror of all that withstand it. 

34. Neither can the clergy be rendered with less danger 
despicable than great, both these extremes equally crossing 
the ways of peace. Yet more safety possibly may accrue from 
estating them in so comfortable a competency as the losing 
of it may create fear than such a power as they have in other 
nations, found by experience to produce pride and ambition 
besides an encroachment on the people's liberty, whose natures 
they are used to warp towards any side by the hope and terror 
they raise in their consciences in relation to another world, the 
exploding of which belief would be no less diminution to the 
reverence of the civil magistrate than the profit of the priest- 


V. Religion 

1, 2. The Bible, the church, expositors. 3. Brightman out. 
4. Universal consent. 5. Profession. 6. Hypocrisy, scan- 
dal. 7. Criticisms, school divinity. 8. Controversies. 9. 
Socinians. 10. Popery. 11. Purgatory, etc. 12. The Ref- 
ormation. 13. Works, profession, faith. 14. Millenaries. 
15. Schismatics, 16. Levelers. 17. The present wild er- 
rors. 18. Tend to anarchy: Moses, Mahomet. 19. Zeal in 
excess. 20. Tender conscience. 21. Obstinacy of heretics. 
22. Courtiers and common people's religion. 23. Reason, 
the Scripture, belief. 24. Antiquity. 25. Reason, revela- 
tion, etc., faith. 26. Honesty of the Indians. 27, 28. Dif- 
ference of religions, good conscience. 29. Fortunetellers. 30. 
Hope and fear. 31. Divine vengeance. 32. Witchcraft. 
33. Rash judgment. 34. Charity. 35, Impiety, improbity. 
36. Injustice. 37. Purchase of church lands. 38. Enmity 
to the clergy, or religion established, or 39. New lights. 
40. Tithes. 41. Wisdom of Moses, 42. Cardinal Wolsey's 

1. Read the book of God with reverence and in things doubt- 
ful take fixation from the authority of the church, which cannot 
be arraigned of a damnable error without questioning that 
truth which hath proclaimed her proof against the gates of hell. 
This makes me wish that our Samsons in success, who have 
stripped her of her ornaments riches, power, and honors 
which the ancient piety left her to cover her nakedness withal 
and given them to vain expounders of riddles, may not one 
day have cause to repent when they find themselves annoyed 
no less than the eyes of truth put out by the dust and rubbish 
the fall of so great an[d] antique a frame is like to make. 

2. Therefore, be content to see your judgment wade rather 


Directions for Better Conduct 

than swim in the sense of the Scripture, because our deep 
plungers have been often observed to bring up sandy assertions 
and their heads wrapped about with the venomous weeds of 
error and schisms, which may for the present discountenance 
the endeavors of modester learning yet will no doubt sink and 
vanish after some time and experience had of their frequent 
mistakes, as those of our bold expositors of the revelation have 
most shamefully done. 

3. For if Brightman, 19 known by myself pious and learned, 
could be so out in his calculation for the Pope's fall as to the 
time, what encouragement remains for you to perplex your 
studies or expectation when those hieroglyphical obscurities 
shall be performed? 

4. He may be less prudent, if not religious, who strains at 
a gnat contrary to the stomach of the church he lives in than 
such as swallow greater things owned by her universal consent. 
For he that herds with the congregation, though in an error, 
hath obedience to stand by him, whereas a truth in the other 
may be rendered more peccant through a solitary obstinacy, 
since it is ordinary with the Holy Spirit to register such kings 
for good as had not quite expunged all marks of idolatry though 
possibly in their power to have done it, which a private person 
cannot but want, having nothing but arguments to oppose 
blunted through prejudice arising from a contrary practice. 

5. Despise not a profession of holiness, because it may be 
true, but have a care how you trust it, for fear it should be false, 
the coat of Christ being more in fashion than his practice, many 
pulpit men like physicians forbidding their patients that you 
may ordinarily find on their own trenchers. 

6. Hypocrisy, though looked upon by the church, the spouse 
of Christ, as a gaudy and painted adulteress, yet if she passeth 

"Thomas Brightman (1562-1607), a Biblical commentator, busied 
himself like many before and since with trying to prove that the Apocalypse 
foretold the imminent destruction of the Papacy. 


Advice to a Son 

undiscovered the result is not so dangerous as that of open pro- 
faneness. Therefore, shun all occasions of scandal which com- 
monly arise from drink, whose followers have their lapses 
scored on every wall. 

7. Criticism and curious questions in school divinity may 
whet the wit, but are detected for dulling the edge of faith 
and were never famous for edification, and though looked upon 
in these last centuries as the right hand of learning, yet better 
cut off than used, as they have long served for weapons of con- 
tention devised to puzzle the laity and render the clergy no less 
necessary than honorable, who have work enough cut out for 
them till doomsday, to resolve which is least suitable to the 
divine essence: to have bound the hands of men or left them 
at liberty? By which a constraint must needs be put upon us 
or our maker, etc. 

8. I can approve of none for magisterial divinity but that 
which is found floating in the unquestioned sense of the Scrip- 
tures. Therefore, when cast upon a place that seems equally 
inclined to different opinions, I would advise to count it, as 
bowlers do, for dead to the present understanding, and not to 
torture the text by measuring of every nicety but rather turn 
to one more plain, referring to that all disputes without knock- 
ing one hard place against another, as they have done since this 
Iron Age, till an unquenchable fire of contention is kindled and 
so many jarring and uncertain sounds of religion heard as men 
stand amazed not knowing which to follow, all pretending to 
be in the right, as if it were possible for truth to contradict her- 

9. I grant the Socinians 20 are not at this time unworthily 
looked upon as the most chemical and rational part of our many 

^Although Osborne is careful not to approve the Socinians, followers 
of the Italian theologian Faustus Socinus, who denied belief in the Trinity 
and the divinity of Christ, he gave the impresson of such tolerance of 
heresy that contemporary religionists called him an atheist, 


Directions for Better Conduct 

divisions; yet going contrary to the ancient canons of the church 
esteemed in the school of the fathers the best grammar of a 
Christian's creed and wanting the principal buttresses of pre- 
scription, universality, and consent to uphold the convenience 
and justify the truth of their doctrine, I cannot award them so 
much approbation as they seem in reason to plead for, yet are 
so far confident that if just proof can be made of their adulter- 
ating the faith of antiquity, few professions extant can justly 
take up the first stone against them who upon a conscientious 
scrutiny may possibly appear equally culpable. However, such 
as call them Arians do not think they honor them with a former 
universal consent, Athanasius only excepted. 21 And other less 
probable opinions may learn this candor and charity from them 
not to bar heaven gates against all professions but their own, 
or like our retailers of new lights pull passengers into their 
preaching houses by the sleeves as if all wanted religion but 

10. And as the Socinian doctrine appears too airy, high, and 
mercurial for ordinary capacities, whose understandings are 
usually consumed like Jupiter's mistress in the splendid com- 
merce of such sublime speculations; so the Roman is too earthly 
and saturnine, participating of the dross of merit, images, in- 
dulgences, etc., which convinceth her of so much worldly re- 
spect as she stands condemned by all but such as are betrayed 
to her devotion through ignorance, profit, or honor on the one 
hand, or chained to her obedience by the iron Inquisition on 
the other. 

11. Yet were not purgatory, with the rest of the Romish 
goblins, obtruded as articles of faith, I should be the less scan- 
dalized at them in hope by accident they might occasion good, 

21 The Arians were a widespread sect in the early church and for a time 
threatened its unity. They were finally condemned in 325 at the Council 
of Nicaea. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, was one of the leading 
opponents of the Arians. 


Advice to a Son 

finding human nature so childish as to be sooner scared than 
persuaded out of the dark entries of sin, the real rod not being 
so terrible in the hand of the magistrate as these phantasms 
which tradition and the priests' subtlety hath formed in the 
people's brains. 

12. But, in conclusion, you will find the Reformation most 
conformable to the duty we owe to God and the magistrate, if 
not too phlegmatic in passing by decent ceremonies or too chol- 
eric and rigid in obtruding upon weak and tender consciences. 

13. And yet it was no unhappy rencounter to him that said 
a good religion might be composed out of the papist's charity, 
the Puritan's words, and the Protestant's faith. For where works 
are thought too chargeable, outward profession too cumber- 
some, the third renders itself suspected. The two first, being 
only palpable to sense and reason, stand firm like a rock, 
whereas the other shakes under the weight of every phantasy 
as Peter did when he walked upon the sea. To speak English, in 
good works none can be deceived but the doer in valuing them 
too high; in the two latter all but God, who only knows the 

14. I confess the millenaries are of so jovial a creed as I could 
be content it stood with the will of God I might herd with them, 
who, if not approved, I do not find condemned by any council, 
at least for the first three hundred years. 

15. But for the vagabond schismatic, he is so fiery as he can- 
not last long unconsumed; being ready upon the least advan- 
tage to melt all into sedition; not sparing to burn the fingers 
of government longer than they shower down offices and prefer- 
ments upon him; whining for a sanctity here God never yet 
trusted out of heaven; therefore, uncapable of quiet but under 
a severe restraint or an absolute liberty. 

16. And our new leveling opinions, though they seem to tran- 
scribe their authority from the no less inimitable than miracu- 
lous practice of the primitive times, stand, if taken at the far- 


Directions for Better Conduct 

thest extent, in so diametrical an opposition to all human felicity 
as not likely to proceed from the Lord of order, being, if lights, 
in such dark lanterns as rob human society of all reward and 
consequently endeavor of desert. Yet the owners, though un- 
constant in their new ways, pronounce it damnable to keep the 

17. It is observable in the present humor that those who 
carry an impress of the wildest errors have a safer passport 
to travel by and a nearer step to preferment than such as retain 
the tenets our fathers kept in gross during the flames of the 
ancient persecutions and by retail under the modern; making 
the honor of that doctrine scandalous for which our ancestors 
were not asha[med] to die, who are by this rendered the worst 
of murderers as having through obstinacy been guilty of their 
own death. 

18. Will not such proceedings incline to anarchy and, that 
proving loathsome to all, make room for the old or some more 
acceptable family, if not for conquest by a foreign nation? 
Because people lying uneasily are apt to such tumblings and 
changes as cannot but at last bring them under a power strong 
enough to constrain or cunning enough to persuade them with 
a pretense of holiness and righteousness to a mutual compliance 
in relation to a change of government. Of the first, there are 
multitudes of examples throughout all profane histories; of the 
later, few but sacred, where the Jews under Moses, being led 
by the miraculous hand of God, are not capable to be com- 
prised within the erring axioms of human policy. As for Ma- 
homet, he tolled on his untutored rabble by mixing profit and 
rapine with his religion, which he left uncertain; grounding 
his precepts upon success ever owned as dropped upon them 
out of heaven; making himself still confident of the event, which 
I cannot undertake, therefore unable in these aporetic 22 times 
to give you better counsel than to keep your compliance so 

22 Aporetic: skeptical. 


Advice to a Son 

loose as if possible you may fix it to the best advantage of your 
profit and honor. 

19. Nevertheless, though a high, palpable, and external zeal 
is taken by the present age as a mark of confidence, yet I cannot 
look upon it with such affection because screwed up to these 
altitudes in many by the wooden pins of worldly respects, not 
likely to hold longer in tune than a harmony can be made 
amongst all parties now possibly at odds or under a jealous 
aspect. Therefore, I advise you to put no more of it on than 
with decency you may divest in case the fashion should alter 
and the rich dye the wars have dipped it in be rubbed off, since 
all customs rise or fall proportionable to the exchange they 
make for the preferments in the state, to which in discretion 
you are bound to suit your obedience though not your con- 
science. For I would have my persuasions understood to reach 
only to what is consonant to religion, which doth not bind you 
to choke you[r] fortunes with the criticisms of such postilers 23 
of the age as value their interpretations of Scripture above lib- 
erty or life; and by this overweening one century makes martyrs 
of those the precedent thought heretics and such liberators of 
their country as were formerly held traitors. 

20. Keep then your conscience tender but not so raw as to 
wince and kick at all you understand not, nor let it baffle your 
wit out of the bounds of discretion as such do that suffer them- 
selves to be moped by it; to prevent which, keep reason always 
in your eye, whose light ought never to be lost in any worldly 
action and but eclipsed in what relates to heaven, the tribunal 
of conscience being erected in our soul to detect our miscar- 
riages, not to betray our well-being, and therefore subordinate 
not only to a superlative authority but also to our own honest, 
safe, and wholesome conveniences. Neither is conscience sel- 
dom misled by education, custom, and the false representations 
of teachers who, benighted in the dark interests of covetousness 

23 Postilers: commentators. 


Directions for Better Conduct 

and ambition, seek to lodge others under the roof of such 
institutes as they believe not themselves, yet employ all their 
art, sufficiency, and endeavor to make them pass for authentic 
and the pure mind of God, like jugglers that beguile our senses 
with what is not to have the better opportunity to pick our 
pockets of what is really useful to themselves. For as the more 
subtle wind got into the narrow and delicate parts of our body 
is able to act the stone, gout, and other most acute diseases not 
really present, so doth superstition represent in this changeable 
and concave glass of a suborned conscience things for sinful 
that are indeed but natural and indifferent, and other pious that 
are really vain and destructive, the prosecution of which leads 
readily to atheism or an overbiased holiness which persecutes 
all that carry the impress of any contrary tenets. 

21. Fly that self-murdering tyrant obstinacy, who like our 
witches is not seldom found to pamper the imps of heresy with 
her own blood, being not only now but from all antiquity able 
to bring clouds of witnesses to the stake for the proof of the 
wildest opinions. And if I am not much mistaken, from the 
reverberation of her heat the flames of the ancient persecutions 
as well as those that followed were at least increased, if not 

22. As it is manifest that most princes and men in power, the 
not unlikeliest to know truth because it is suspected they did 
at first disguise it, make no more account of religion than the 
profit and conveniency it brings is able to compense, so the un- 
biased rabble, if once emancipated out of the fetters their 
former creed confined them to, value the church as they do the 
old coins they dig up, which they take for counters because 
they find them subject to rust, and are not able by reason of 
their Roman inscriptions the character of the beast which 
opinion rather than judgment imagines them branded withal 
to make them pass in the strict commerce of these intoxicated 
times; whereby they exchange that for baser metal which in 


Advice to a Son 

itself perhaps is pure gold, only attached unhappily by the 
cankers and corruptions of age easier scoured off than melted. 
23. But if St. Peter's pretended successor, the Pope, be found 
guilty of such erroneous mistakes, it cannot be so much a 
solecism in reason with our seekers to place St. Thomas in the 
chair, believing like him no more than lies patent to human 
understanding, which is as much as can decently be imposed 
upon a new believer without a miracle reason being all the 
touchstone besides left in our hands to distinguish this gold 
from the dross they pretend our religion hath contracted; the 
Scripture alone seeming unable by reason of her divers readings 
and the several sounds variety of expositions have put upon 
it to decide all differences. Besides, the long abode she hath 
made at Rome, where who knows whether or no or how far 
that bishop hath put in his foot, may render her in some opin- 
ions suspected as participating of the like corruptions we see 
manifested in the translations. So as it may possibly be wished 
learning had never taken her out of the hands of tradition, 
where for many years she remained with more quiet than 
ever she enjoyed since she grew domestical with all sorts of 
understandings who have been connived at by the state how 
prudently I dare not determine whilst they cut her more 
short or intend her longer as best fitted their ends and occa- 
sions. Now if faith be not allowed to be taken implicitly from 
the authority o any church, a freedom of choice by conse- 
quence will result to all by which salvation must be wrought 
out. And in this wilderness of contention we have no better 
guide to follow than reason, found the same for many thou- 
sands of years though belief hath been observed to vary every 
age. And since so considerable a falsehood is thought to be 
discovered by our governors in the clergy's tenet for the im- 
punity of kings, why may not their poor subjects be unsatis- 
fied about the place they shall receive their own reward or 
punishment in after this life or what else may befall these 


Directions for Better Conduct 

dusty bodies of ours? Yet I say not this to diminish your faith 
but to increase your charity towards tender consciences, who 
may pretend cause enough to doubt though my single judg- 
ment is still ready to determine for antiquity. 

24. Reverence antiquity but conclude it not infallible; yet I 
should take her word sooner in divinity than any other learning 
because that is clearest at the beginning, all studies else more 
muddy receiving clarification from experience. 

25. All truth familiar unto mortals is only legible by the eye 
of reason revelation, prophecy, etc., being strangers now to 
flesh and ever too high elevated for the perpetual commerce 
of such weak creatures who may sometimes enjoy a glimmer- 
ing of them as the northern inhabitants do of the sun in winter, 
not permanent longer than they are able to fan away the dark 
clouds of infidelity which dims their light upon the absence of 
the ecstasy. Whereas reason passeth in an universal commerce, 
being of an unquestioned alloy and therefore likeliest to be 
the oracle of the everliving God said by Solomon to have 
squared the bars of the earth by her rule and so not improb- 
ably supposed to have measured out the way to heaven by her 
line. St. Paul allows the notice of God's universal goodness for 
a sufficient evidence to convince the disobedient heathen, and 
may not the same as well save the faithful observers of the 
purer law of nature? Shall the righteous judge of all things 
be found with two weights: one to save, another to damn by? 
Reason only commands belief; all things else beg it, so far as 
the most stupendous miracles that ever were cannot confute 
though 'tis possible they may silence it for a time. But belief 
changeth, and impairing or mending implies a wearing out 
imperfections reason is uncapable of, remaining the same for- 
ever as the most faithful guide to our maker. 

26. It is no less worth your observance than admiration that 
the wilder Indians and other people by us styled barbarous are 
yet more strangers to the unsociable sins of improbity, covet- 


Advice to a Son 

ousness, etc., than such as pretend to advance their conversion. 
Of which this may be a reason, that whilst they remain con- 
stant to the pure dictates of nature, they imagine no medita- 
tion to secure their hopes or screen their fears conceived to 
depend on another life but their own endeavors which might 
give Paul an occasion to pronounce them a law to themselves 
and therefore possibly within the compass of God's secret grace, 
it being our Saviour's own confession to him that had kept the 
Commandments that nothing wanted but the sale of his pro- 
priety, a term these understand not, having all in common; 
and if the last part be looked upon as omitted, I would fain 
know who follows his master best he that comes loaden with 
what he is able and goes as far as he can with him, or else he 
that hath lost it all or is lazy and lies down by the way 
acceptance being a far easier grant than pardon. 

27. Religions do not naturally differ so much in themselves 
as fiery and uncharitable men pretend, who do not seldom 
persecute those of their own creed because they profess it in 
other terms. Then do not only ask thy conscience what is truth 
but give her full leisure to resolve thee; for he that goes out 
of the way with her consent is likelier to find rest than he that 
plods on without taking her directions. 

28. Therefore, do nothing against the counsel of this guide, 
though she is observed in the world to render her owners ob- 
noxious to the injury and deceit of all that converse without 
her, nothing being more hard and chargeable to keep than a 
good conscience. 

29. Let no seeming opportunity prevail so far upon your 
curiosity as to entice you to an inspection into your future for- 
tune, since such inquisitiveness was never answered with good 
success, the world, like a lottery, affording multitudes of 
crosses for one prize, which reduced all into a sum must by 
a necessary consequence render the remainder of life tedious 


Directions for Better Conduct 

in removing present felicities to make room for the contempla- 
tion of future miseries. 

30. Do not pre-engage hope or fear by a tedious expectation 
which may lessen the pleasure of the first yet cannot but ag- 
gravate the weight of the latter, whose arrival is commonly 
with a less train of inconveniences than this her harbinger 
strives to take up room for, evil fortune being no less inconstant 
than good. Therefore, render not thyself giddy by poring on 
despair nor wanton with the contemplation of hope. 

31. Stamp not the impress of a divine vengeance upon the 
death or misfortunes of others though never so prodigious, for 
fear of penning a satire against yourself in case you should fall 
under the same chance many things being taken up for 
dropped out of an immediate celestial hand that fell from no 
higher pitch than where God in His providence hath placed 
such events as wait upon all times and occasions which prayers 
and prudence are not able always to shroud you from, since 
upon strict inquiry it may appear that in relation to this world 
the godly have as little cause to brag as the wicked to complain. 

32. Be not easily drawn to lay the foul imputation of witch- 
craft upon any, much less to assist at their condemnation too 
common among us. For who is sufficient for these things, since 
we are as ignorant in the benevolences as malignities of nature, 
madmen presenting in their melancholy ecstasies as prodigious 
confessions and gestures as are objected to these no less in- 
fatuated people? And if this humor hath so far prevailed with 
some as to take themselves for urinals, wolves, and what not, 
can it seem impossible for those invaded by all the causes of 
discontent to imagine themselves authors of what they never 
did? Most of these strange miracles they suppose, being hatched 
by the heat of imagination or snatched out of the huge mass 
of contingencies, such a multitude of individuals as the world 
produceth cannot choose but stumble upon. Neither may it be 


Advice to a Son 

admitted with due reverence to the divine nature that prophecy 
should cease and witches so abound as seems by their frequent 
executions, which makes me think the strongest fascination is 
encircled within the ignorance of the judges, malice of the 
witnesses, or stupidity of the poor parties accused. 

33. Be not, therefore, hasty to register all you understand 
not in the black calendar of hell as some have done the weapon 
salve, passing by the cure of the king's evil altogether as im- 
probable to sense. Neither rashly condemn all you meet with 
that contradicts the common received opinion, lest you should 
remain a fool upon record, as the Pope doth that anathematized 
the Bishop of Salzburg for maintaining antipodes and the 
Consistory that may possibly attain the same honor for decree- 
ing against the probable opinion of the earth's motion, since 
the branding of one truth imports more disrepute than the 
broaching of ten errors, these being only lapses in the search 
of new reason without which there can be no addition to knowl- 
edge. That a murdering of it, when by others' greater wit and 
industry it is begotten, not to be accounted less than an un- 
pardonable sin against the spirit of learning; therefore, mingle 
charity with judgment and temper your zeal with discretion, 
so may your own fame be preserved without entrenching upon 
that of others. 

34. Fall not out with charity though you find for the most 
part ingratitude lying at her gate, which God hath contrived 
the better to reserve requital to Himself. 

35. As he offers an high indignity to the divine nature that 
robs God of His honor by owning thoughts of Him unsuitable 
to the dictates of reason, the exactest engine we have to meas- 
ure Him by out of the volume of His word; so doth he offend 
no less aging probity that detains another's due contrary to 
justice and the clamors of his own conscience, whereby he 
makes himself and his posterity heirs to the curse which the 
wheel of providence, moved by the breath o God's first fiat, 


Directions for Better Conduct 

doth usual stamp upon those that endeavor to deface the im- 
press of goodness and equity which appeared in all things at 
the beginning. Therefore, be not forward to promote any de- 
structive tenets or lickerish after such ill-gotten estates as the 
law of power may for a small sum be wooed to possess you of 
out of an hope to engage you or a fear they might revert in 
case they were not diffused amongst a multitude of owners. 

36. Make not law or the power you may possibly exercise 
in the commonwealth instrumental to your private malice, no 
murders being so bloody as those committed by the sword of 

37. Let not the cheapness or convenience of church lands 
tempt you to their purchase. For though I have not observed 
vengeance so nimble in this world as divines pretend, yet what 
prudence is there to submit all your future success to be meas- 
ured out by so severe expositions as churchmen usually make 
of sacrilegious persons, which all are registered to be that med- 
dle with their revenues? besides the danger and shame of 
refunding in case a contrary zeal should repossess the people, 
whose clamors and warrant cannot be thought less sufficient 
to obliterate your title than the former, written, as may be 
supposed, with more authentic ink. 

38. Denounce no enmity against the clergy; for, supported 
by prayers or policy, they cannot long want an opportunity 
to revenge themselves. Neither oppose any religion you find 
established how ridiculous soever you apprehend it; for though 
like David you may bring unavoidable arguments to stagger a 
popular error, none but the monster's own sword can cut off the 
head of one universally received. 

39. Run not hooting after every new light you may observe 
to wander about nor endeavor by a tumultuous dispute to puff 
it out; for he that will not quench the smoking flax may pos- 
sibly accept of a lamp composed of no richer stuff than rushes. 

40. Grudge not tithes to the teachers of the Gospel assigned 


Advice to a Son 

for their wages by the divine legislator, of whose institutes 
this was none of the least profound, that the tribe of Levi 
were prohibited all other revenue than what was deducible out 
of the tenth part of the other eleven's increase, setting bounds 
thereby to all the improvement their wisdoms and the tie the 
priesthood had over the people's consciences might in the fu- 
ture possibly make in causing their maintenance to rise and fall 
proportionable to the general standard of the nation's felicity, 
which this limitation obliged them to promote and for their 
own sakes to oppose all encroachments likely to interrupt their 
brethren's utility. This prompts me to believe that if the like 
salary were assigned here we might promise to ourselves the 
same success, provided the sovereign power reserve in their 
own hands the collation of benefices without giving leave to 
any stipendiaries or lecturers that signify little less than an 
anticlergy. And to persuade this there may be more reason than 
the narrow project of this discourse is able to find room for. 

41. Yet I cannot but by the way mind you of the superlative 
wisdom of Moses, who lest one sacrilegious injury should have 
proved a precedent for a greater had the people made a 
benefit by the spoil employed the censors of Korah and com- 
plices to make plates for the altar; but finding the god of idols 
too rank decently to be used in the service of God, he reduced 
them to dust and threw them into the river, lest the multitude 
having been fleshed on a calf, a false deity should after assume 
the boldness to rob the true one and those His institutes ap- 
pointed to live by His service. 

42. And here it may not improperly be said that Cardinal 
Wolsey was ignorant of or had forgot this aphorism of policy 
when he pulled down monasteries to build colleges, by which 
he instructed that docile tyrant Henry the Eighth to improve 
the same, there being nothing forwarder to demolish the re- 
sults of zeal and ignorance than learning and knowledge. 
Neither did he discover himself a more accomplished courtier 


Directions for Better Conduct 

when he laid the foundation of [a] grave for a living king, who 
could not be delighted with the sight of a tomb though never 
so magnificent, having lived in so high a sensuality as I may 
doubt whether he would then have exchanged it for the joys 
of heaven itself. I instance in this as a fit example to dissuade 
you from thinking it discretion or manners to use funerous dis- 
courses before princes or men in power, who hate nothing so 
much as the thought of their own mortality and therefore un- 
like to be pleased with the messengers of it. 



Carriage towards your 1. Mother, 2. Sister, 3, Dr. 
Cr. 4. Last will. 5, 6. Burial 7. Death, 8. Judg- 
ment. 9* Close of all. 

1. Bear always a filial reverence to your dear mother and let 
not her old age, if she attain it, seem tedious unto you, since 
that little she may keep from you will be abundantly recom- 
pensed not only by her prayers but by the tender care she hath 
and ever will have of you. Therefore, in case of my death, which 
weariness of the world will not suffer me to adjourn so much 
as by a wish, do not proportion your respect by the mode of 
other sons but to the greatness of her desert beyond requital 
in relation to us both. 

2. Continue in love and amity with your sister and in case 
of need help her what you are able, remembering you are of a 
piece and hers and yours differ but in name, which I presume 
(upon want of issue) will not be denied to be imposed on any 
child of hers you shall desire to take for your own. 

3. Let no time expunge his memory that gave you the first 
tincture of erudition, to which he was more invited by love 
than profit, no less than his incomparable wife. Therefore, if 
God make you able, requite them, and in the meanwhile regis- 
ter their names among those you stand most obliged unto. 

4. What you leave at your death, let it be without con- 
troversy, else the lawyers will be your heirs. 

5. Be not solicitous after pomp at my burial, nor use any 
expensive funeral ceremony by which mourners like crows de- 
vour the living under pretense of honoring a dead carcass. 
Neither can I apprehend a tombstone to add so great a weight 
of glory to the dead as it doth of charge and trouble to the liv- 
ing, none being so impertinent wasters in my opinion as those 


Directions for Better Conduct 

which build houses for the dead. He that lies under the hearse 
of heaven is convertible into sweet herbs and flowers that may 
rest in such bosoms as would shriek at the ugly bugs may pos- 
sibly be found crawling in the magnificent tomb of Henry the 
Seventh, which also hinders the variety of such contingent 
resurrections as unarched bodies enjoy, without giving inter- 
ruption to that which He that will not again die hath promised 
to such as love Him and expect His appearing. Besides, that 
man were better forgotten who hath nothing of greater mo- 
ment to register his name by than a grave. 

6. Contest not with such frantic people as deny men the 
burial formerly called Christian, since unquietness importunes 
a living body more than a ceremony can advantage one that 
is dead. This and an hundred other changes ought not to dis- 
turb our rest who are less interested in what can happen after 
our death than in what was extant before our birth, no books 
being legible in the grave. 

7. Neither can I apprehend such horror in death as some do 
that render their lives miserable to avoid it, meeting it often- 
times by the same way they take to shun it. Death, if he may 
be guessed at by his elder brother Sleep (born before he was 
thought on and fell upon Adam ere he fell from his maker) 
cannot be so terrible a messenger, being not without much 
ease if not some voluptuousness. Besides, nothing in this world 
is worth coming from the housetop to fetch it, much less from 
the deep grave, furnished with all things because empty of 

8. And concerning a future account, I find the bill to swell 
rather than shrink by continuance; or if a stronger propensity 
to religion resides in age than youth, which I wish I had no 
cause to doubt of, it relates more the temperature of the body 
than any improvement of the mind and so unworthy of any 
other reward than what is due to the effects of human in- 


Advice to a Son 

9. To conclude, let us serve God with what reverence we are 
able and do all the good we can, making as little unnecessary 
work for repentance as is possible. And the mercy of our 
Heavenly Father supply all our defects in the Son of His love. 

Thus I have left you finished, dear son, a picture of the world 
in this at least like it that it is frail and confused, being an 
original, not a copy, no more foreign help having been em- 
ployed in it than what my own miserable experience had im- 
printed in my memory. And as you have by trial already found 
the truth of some of these, so I most earnestly beg of you to 
trust the rest without thrusting your fingers like a child into 
those flames in which your father hath formerly been burnt, 
and so add by your own purchase to the multitude of incon- 
veniences he is forced to leave you by inheritance. 

Now you are taught to live, there's nothing I esteem worth 
learning but the way to die. 


-,t cared not at 

all for the Idealistic niceties. The 
distinction and position of Burghley 
ai?4 Raleigh may in part account 
for the popularity of their manuals 
In the seventeenth century, long 
after their deaths, but obviously 
both works possessed qualities con- 
genial to the age, and readers ap- 
proved of the way they mingled 
virtue and pragmatism, 

Of the three works,, Dr. Wright 
comments, Osborne's "must be re- 
garded as a literary creation in ad- 
dition to being a practical manual 
composed for the use of a par- 
ticular person." 

Advice to a Son is the second of 
a series, Folger Documents of Tu- 
dor and Stuart Civilization^ to be 
published for the Folger Shake- 
speare Library by Cornell Univer- 
sity Press. Original documents 
books and manuscripts from the 
Tudor and Stuart period, these 
volumes are designed to throw 
light on various aspects of the clvi- 
.Hzation of that era. Each publica- 
tion will be equipped with a 
scholarly introduction that will give 
the historical significance of the 
document, its importance to its own 
time, and its value to social his- 
torians today. 

The student of English history 
will find this book a valuable ad- 
dition to his Ebraiy. 

1 34 460